- Prefatory Note to Volumes Iii and Iv
- Pamphlets and Papers Written For Publication 1809–1811
- Note On the Bullion Essays
- The Price of Gold Three Contributions to the Morning Chronicle1809
- The Price of Gold 1
- [first Reply to ‘a Friend to Bank-notes’] to the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.1
- [second Reply to ‘a Friend to Bank-notes’] to the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.1
- [appendix to ‘the Price of Gold’
- [a Reply By Trower]
- [a Further Reply By Ricardo]1
- The High Price of Bullion 1810– 11
- Three Letters to the Morning Chronicle On the Bullion Report 1810
- [three Letters On the Bullion Report] Report of the Bullion Committee1to Theeditor of the Morning Chronicle.
- [on Sir John Sinclair’s ‘observations’] Bullion Report1to Theeditor of the Morning Chronicle.
- [on Mr Randle Jackson’s Speech] Bullion Report1to Theeditor of the Morning Chronicle.
- Reply to Mr. Bosanquet’s ‘practical Observations On the Report of the Bullion Committee’, 1811
- Chapter I: Preliminary Observations.—mr. Bosanquet’s Objections to the Conclusions of the Bullion Committee Briefly Stated.
- Chapter II: Mr. Bosanquet’s Alleged Facts, Drawn From the History of the State of Exchange, Considered.
- Chapter III: Mr. Bosanquet’s Alleged Facts, In Supposed Refutation of the Conclusion That a Rise In the Market Price of Bullion Above the Mint Price Proves a Depreciation of the Currency, Considered.
- Chapter IV: Mr. Bosanquet’s Objections to the Statement, That the Balance of Payments Has Been In Favour of Great Britain, Examined.
- Chapter V: Mr. Bosanquet’s Argument to Prove That the Bank of England Hasnotthe Power of Forcing the Circulation of Bank Notes—considered.
- Chapter VI: Observations On the Principles of Seignorage.
- Chapter VII: Mr. Bosanquet’s Objections to the Proposition, That the Circulation of the Bank of England Regulates That of the Country Banks, Considered.
- Chapter VIII: Mr. Bosanquet’s Opinion—that Years of Scarcity and Taxes Have Been the Sole Cause of the Rise of Prices, Excessive Circulation No Cause—considered.
- Chapter IX: Mr. Bosanquet’s Opinion, That Evil Would Result From the Resumption of Cash Payments—considered.
- Notes On Bentham’s ‘sur Les Prix’ 1810– 1811
- Notes On the Bullion Report and Evidence 1810
- (a): [notes On the Report of the Bullion Committee]
- (b): [rough Notes On the First Part of the Minutes of Evidence]
- (c): [notes On the Minutes of Evidence] Minutes of Evidence
- Notes On Trotter’s ‘principles of Currency and Exchanges’ 1810
- Observations On Trower’s Notes On Trotter 1811
- Observations On Vansittart’s Propositions Respecting Money, Bullion and Exchanges 1811
Ricardo’s first appearance in print marked the beginning of what came to be known as the Bullion Controversy. It took the shape of an anonymous article on The Price of Gold published in the Morning Chronicle of 29 August 1809. His brother and biographer, Moses Ricardo, records how this contribution came to be published. ‘The immense transactions’, he says, ‘which he had with the Bank of England, in the course of business, tallying with the train of studies on which he was then engaged, led Mr. Ricardo to reflect upon the subject of the currency, to endeavour to account for the difference which existed between the value of the coin and the Bank notes, and to ascertain from what cause the depreciation of the latter arose. This occupied much of his attention at the time, and formed a frequent theme of conversation with those among his acquaintances who were inclined to enter upon it. He was induced to put his thoughts upon paper, without the remotest view at the time to publication. The late Mr. Perry, proprietor of the Morning Chronicle, was one of the few friends to whom Mr. Ricardo showed his manuscript. Mr. Perry urged him to allow it to be published in the Morning Chronicle; to which, not without some reluctance, Mr. Ricardo consented’.
The publication of Ricardo’s article started an extensive correspondence in the Morning Chronicle. His own further contributions were provoked by a letter defending the Bank of England against his criticisms, which appeared on 14 September 1809 and was signed ‘A Friend to Bank Notes, but no Bank Director’, whom Ricardo ‘soon after found to be an intelligent friend of his own’, Hutches Trower. Ricardo’s reply to this letter appeared on 20 September over the signature ‘R.’ A second letter from ‘A Friend to Bank Notes’, although dated 23 September, was not published till 30 October; and Ricardo’s rejoinder, dated 4 November, and signed ‘R.’, did not appear until 23 November. This concluded their controversy in public. But once they had established each other’s identity, it seems that the two correspondents communicated their views to one another without waiting for the long delayed publication in the Morning Chronicle. Thus a private controversy arose between them concurrently with the last stage of their published letters and was carried on after their controversy in public had come to an end.
Ricardo’s answer to both of these replies of Trower was found among Trower’s papers and is printed below, pp. 36–46; the first part (pp. 36–43) deals with Trower’s reply to (a) and the second (pp. 43–6) with Trower’s reply to (b).
Meanwhile Ricardo had decided to give further publicity to his views in the form of a pamphlet, The High Price of Bullion, a Proof of the Depreciation of Bank Notes, which was published by John Murray about a month after his last letter had appeared in the Morning Chronicle.
The relation of the pamphlet to the Chronicle contributions has been the subject of some confusion. Ricardo himself, in his Introduction to the first three editions of the pamphlet, says that ‘he has thought proper to republish his sentiments on this question in a form more calculated to bring it to fair discussion’. McCulloch, however, who had not read any of the contributions to the Chronicle, is certainly misleading in his statement that ‘having subsequently collected the letters, and given them a more systematic form, Mr. Ricardo published them in a pamphlet’, as it suggests that the pamphlet was little more than a reprint of the letters. As Professor Hollander says, ‘An important consequence of McCulloch’s editorial neglect has been a general acquiescence in the view that the Chronicle letters were planned and published in serial form, and that the pamphlet on the “High Price of Bullion” was not merely a free version but an essential reproduction of the statements therein contained.’ A comparison of the pamphlet with the contributions to the Morning Chronicle shows that, although the main points discussed in the pamphlet had been outlined in the letters, the former is by no means a mere reprint, but was almost entirely written afresh.
Nor is there any foundation for Professor Silberling’s supposition that the High Price of Bullion was written before the contributions to the Morning Chronicle, indeed several years before. He rests his case mainly on the assertion that the pamphlet ‘refers to no political or economic events later than 1805’; but Ricardo’s treatment being essentially abstract, no events apart from the Bank Restriction are referred to, either before or after 1805, other than movements of prices; most of these, notably the rise in the price of gold, the fall of silver compared with gold and the depression of the exchange, refer to the year 1809. It is true that Ricardo refers only to works written before 1804, but it by no means follows that his comments on them were written at the time of their publication. It appears that in the autumn of 1809, after the publication of his original article, Ricardo read or re-read a number of writers on the subject of currency, including Locke, Sir James Steuart, Adam Smith, Lord Liverpool and Thornton, making notes which have been found among Ricardo’s papers. None of these writers is mentioned in Ricardo’s original article on The Price of Gold, but they are referred to both in the subsequent letters to the Chronicle (September and November 1809) and in the pamphlet. Indeed, certain controversial passages from these letters, directly replying to Trower’s arguments, are repeated verbatim in the pamphlet, which suggests that the latter was written some time between September and November 1809 (the Introduction is dated 1 December), during the final stage of, or immediately after, the controversy in the Chronicle.
On 1 February 1810, a month after the publication of the pamphlet, a speech by Francis Horner in the House of Commons, which led up to the appointment of the Bullion Committee, brought the Controversy to a further stage. Ricardo replied to this speech in a private letter, on 5 February, in which he disputed Horner’s statement that other factors besides the superabundance of the paper circulation had contributed to the high price of gold. A number of passages from this letter were embodied in the third edition, ‘With Additions’, of The High Price of Bullion, which was published early in March 1810, and, apart from some alterations in arrangement (see below, pp. 67,n. 1 and 74, n. 1), they constituted almost the entire changes in this edition. Further additions were made in the fourth edition, which was published a year later (see below, p. 11).
The Bullion Committee was actually appointed by the House of Commons on 19 February 1810 ‘to enquire into the Cause of the High Price of Gold Bullion’. Their report was formally laid before the House on 8 June, but it was not printed till August, and extracts appeared in all the newspapers of Monday, 13 August 1810.
The appearance of the Bullion Report gave rise to a great output of controversial pamphlets. Ricardo’s contribution at this stage consisted of three letters to the Morning Chronicle in September 1810. The first, a review of the Report itself, appeared on 6 September. The second, on Sinclair’s pamphlet against the Report, on 18 September. The third, on Randle Jackson’s speech at the Bank Court of 20 September attacking the Report on behalf of the Bank, appeared on 24 September.
Since the early summer of 1810, the question of who should review the Report in the Edinburgh Review had been under consideration. On 16 July Horner had written to Jeffrey, the editor: ‘I am just returned to town, after an absence of about ten days. The Bullion report, I am rather surprised to find, is not yet delivered from the printers; I revised the proof-sheets before I left town. I would rather do something for you myself, if you will let me know the utmost time you can allow me; rather, I mean, than trust that subject in the hands of any of your mercenary troops, one of whom was guilty of deplorable heresies in the account of a book by one Smith. I will do a short article for you this time, to do justice to Mr Ricardo and Mr Mushet, who called the public attention to this very important subject at the end of last year.’
From a later letter it appears that the plan that Horner himself should write the Bullion article had been abandoned, that Ricardo had been approached and had refused and that Malthus had finally undertaken to do it: ‘Ricardo has taken such fright at the notion of writing in the Review, that I have not succeeded in that point; he prefers publishing in a separate pamphlet. Malthus has given me hopes that he will be able to scramble up an article this week; and I am very anxious to have the subject in his hands, and to engage him in the discussion, both because he agrees with me upon the fundamental principles of the doctrine, and because we have some differences, or rather difficulties which we try to solve differently, in some parts of the Theory. All I beg of you, though I have no right to ask any thing, is not to let Milne lay his hands upon us.’
The paper which Ricardo had in preparation, and which he was unwilling to publish as a review, was no doubt his Reply to Mr. Bosanquet’s Practical Observations on the Bullion Report, which appeared as a separate pamphlet a month before the number of the Edinburgh Review containing Malthus’s Bullion article. Bosanquet’s ‘dexterous but somewhat unfair pamphlet’, as Horner described it, was regarded at the time as the most effective of the criticisms published on the Bullion Report. He directed his criticisms particularly against ‘Mr. Ricardo’s work, not only as having been the immediate cause of the inquiry which has since taken place, under the authority of the house of commons, but as a syllabus of the Report which has been presented by the Committee’. The Practical Observations on the Report of the Bullion Committee, by Charles Bosanquet, was published byJ. M. Richardson in the latter half of November 1810. A ‘Second Edition, Corrected, with a Supplement’ appeared in December of the same year, the Supplement being published also as a separate pamphlet. The body of Ricardo’s Reply is based on the first edition, and was sent to the press before he had seen Bosanquet’s second edition; his Appendix being added later to deal with Bosanquet’s Supplement. The Reply was being printed at the end of December 1810, as it appears from a letter of Mill, and it was published early in January 1811.
Early in April the fourth edition of Ricardo’s High Price of Bullion was published. The main body of the pamphlet contained few changes, but the Introduction was omitted, and an Appendix was added containing his observations on the Edinburgh Review article, and outlining his plan for bullion payments, which he later developed in Economical and Secure Currency.
On 8 April Horner replied: ‘Ricardo’s reply to your objections is not so well written, in point of clearness, as his usual style. I suspect that upon that dispute the truth lies between you, and that a mode of expressing and stating what takes place might be hit upon, to which you would both assent.’
So far Ricardo and Malthus had never met, and the controversy between them had been carried on only in print. In June 1811, Malthus introduced himself to Ricardo. Malthus’s second article on Bullion, in the Edinburgh Review for August 1811, contained no criticism of Ricardo, and the further controversy between them was restricted to private discussions and correspondence.
Mr. Bosanquet’s Opinion, that Evil would result from the Resumption of Cash Payments—considered.
To conclude, Mr. Bosanquet is persuaded that much evil will ensue from the resumption of cash payments, and he cannot anticipate any improvement in the course of exchange, or any fall in the price of bullion from a reduction of the circulation, unless our imports are diminished and our exports increased.
To me, however, it appears perfectly clear, that a reduction of Bank notes would lower the price of bullion and improve the exchange, without in the least disturbing the regularity of our present exports and imports. It would neither enable us to export or import gold in any way different to what is now actually taking place. Our transactions with foreigners would be precisely the same, we should possess only a more valuable money of the same name; and instead of being credited by Hamburgh for a depreciated pound sterling, which will only purchase 104 grains of gold, at the rate of 28 Flemish schillings, we should, by restoring our pound sterling to its true bullion value, viz. 123 grains, have a credit at the rate of 34 schillings. The difference, however, of six schillings, which would thus appear in our favour, would be an advantage in name and appearance solely. No mistake would be greater than to suppose there was in it any real advantage.
If, by a reduction of Bank notes, they were so raised in value as to be above the value of gold bullion, we should then interfere with the real course of exchange; we should disturb the present equilibrium of imports and exports; and we should cause an importation of bullion, or, in the language of merchants, a favourable balance of trade.
If Mr. Bosanquet’s view of our affairs were indeed correct, gloomy would be our prospects. Obliged to support a great foreign expenditure, “to import articles with which we cannot dispense,” and in return for which nothing but gold will be accepted, we might almost calculate the period at which the contest must terminate, from a want of this most essential commodity. For a balance of payments so enormous as he calculates, gold could not be found in this country for one twelvemonth; and if our goods can no where purchase it, how hopeless must be our condition!
For my part, however, I have no such apprehensions. I am persuaded that our foreign expenditure is neither paid with gold nor with bills of exchange,—that it must eventually be discharged with the produce of the labour and industry of our people.
It is only to a blind perseverance in our present system of circulation that I look with alarm,—a system which is gradually undermining our resources, and the inconveniences and evils of which, in the language of the Committee, “if not checked, must at no great distance of time work a practical conviction upon the minds of all those who may still doubt their existence; but even if their progressive increase were less probable, the integrity and honour of Parliament are concerned not to authorize longer than is required by imperious necessity, the continuance in this great commercial country of a system of circulation in which that natural check or controul is absent, which maintains the value of money, and, by the permanency of that common standard of value secures the substantial justice and faith of monied contracts and obligations between man and man.”
May we be permitted to hope, that what an enlightened Committee has so happily begun, is a pledge of what will be accomplished by the wisdom of Parliament?
After the preceding sheets were sent to the press, I read the supplementary observations of Mr. Bosanquet, annexed to the second edition of his pamphlet. I shall have but few remarks to make on them.
1st, From what I have already said it may be seen that I deny the accuracy of all Mr. Bosanquet’s calculations concerning the exchange with Hamburgh. Those calculations are made on the assumption of a fixed invariable par, whilst the true par, on which they should have been made, is subject to all the variations to which the relative value of gold and silver is exposed. These two metals having varied no less since the year 1801, than from 6½ per cent. under the mint proportions, to 9 per cent. above those proportions; calculations made on such a principle may involve errors to no less an amount than 15½ per cent. 2dly, The argument attempted to be founded on the fact of the increase or diminution in the amount of Bank notes, not having invariably been accompanied by a fall or rise in the exchange, or by a rise or fall in the price of bullion, is of no avail against a theory which admits that the demand for circulating medium is subject to continual fluctuations, proceeding from an increase or decrease in the amount of capital and commerce; from a greater or less facility which at one period may be afforded to payments by a varying degree of confidence and credit; and, in short, which supposes that the same commerce and payments may require very different amounts of circulating medium. An amount of Bank notes which at one time may be excessive, in the sense in which I use that term, and which may therefore be depreciated,—may, at another, be barely sufficient for the payments which it may have to perform, barring the effect of a temporary increase in its value above that of the bullion which it represents. It will therefore be useless to admit or to deny the correctness of the grounds on which Mr. Bosanquet’s calculation of the amount of country paper in circulation is founded. Those facts do not, in my opinion, bear upon the subject in dispute. Whether the paper currency be 25 or 100 millions, I consider it equally certain that it is excessive, because I am not aware of any causes but excess or a want of confidence in the issuers of the paper (which I am sure does not now exist), which could produce such effects as we have for a considerable time witnessed.
Mr. Bosanquet has thrown the inferences which he wishes to be drawn from the facts he has newly brought forward into the shape of four problems; the solution of which, upon the principles of the Committee, he presumes to be impossible. I hope I have already shewn that his facts fall abundantly short of proving the points which he makes to rest upon them, and I think the difficulty will not be great in giving him even a solution of his problems in perfect conformity with the principles of the Committee.
The first problem is, “The fall of the exchange, from an average of 6 per cent. in favour, from 1790 to 1795, to 3 per cent. below par, in 1795 and 6, with an equal circulation of eleven millions of Bank paper, convertible into specie on demand, and the advance of the exchange to 11 per cent. above par, on average in 1797 and 1798, the circulation being increased to thirteen millions and not so convertible.”
The reader will perceive that this problem has already received its solution in the body of the work. The exchanges are not correctly stated, and no one denies that the exchanges may rise and fall from many causes.
It has been proved that the demand for gold for the Mint, and for silver for the East Indies, in the years 1797 and 1798, had their natural effect on the exchange, and was not counteracted by an extravagant issue of paper currency. The gold was required to fill up the exhausted coffers of the Bank; it was therefore not sent into circulation; and the addition of two millions in Bank notes served only to supply the vacuum which the hoarding of money had occasioned; so that there was no real increase to the circulation of those years.
The second problem is, “The fall of the exchange to 6 per cent. below par, and gold 9 per cent. above the mint price in 1800 and 1801, the Bank circulation rather above 15 millions, and the advance to 3 per cent. above par, on average of six years, from 1803 to 1808, and gold nearly at the mint price, with an augmented circulation of 17 to 18 millions.”
Besides the effects from a varying degree of commerce and credit, it should be recollected that whilst our circulation consisted partly of gold and partly of paper, the effect of an increased issue of paper, both on the exchanges and the price of bullion, was corrected, after a sufficient interval, by the exportation of the coin. That resource has been for some time lost to us.
The third problem, viz. “The fall of the exchange, from 5 per cent. above par, in July 1808, to 10 per cent. below par, in June 1809, the Bank circulation being the same in both instances;” is of easy solution. I cannot find the document from which Mr. Bosanquet has stated that the amount of Bank notes was the same in July 1808 as in June 1809; but, admitting its correctness, are they fair subjects of comparison? One period is immediately after the payment of the dividends, the other immediately before. In January and July 1809 there was no less an increase in the amount of Bank notes, after the payment of the dividends, than 2,450,000l. and in the January following, 1,878,000l.
I am not disposed to contend that the issues of one day, or of one month, can produce any effect on the foreign exchanges; it may possibly require a period of more permanent duration; an interval is absolutely necessary before such effects would follow. This is never considered by those who oppose the principles of the Committee. They conclude that those principles are defective, because their operation is not immediately perceived. But what are the facts respecting the circulation of Bank notes in the years 1808 and 1809? There are only three returns of their amount in the year 1808 made to the Bullion Committee. Let us compare them with the returns for the same periods in 1809, and I think my readers will agree with me, that these facts will rather confirm than appear to be at variance with the principles of the Committee.
|Amount of Bank notes In 1808.||Amount of Bank notes In 1809.|
|1 May||17,491,900||1 May||18,646,880|
|1 August||17,644,670||1 August||19,811,330|
|1 November||17,467,170||1 November||19,949,290|
As for the fourth problem, viz. “The gradually increasing price of commodities, during the American war, when the circulation was gold, and during the six years from 1803 to 1808, when the exchange was in favour,” where has it been disputed that there are not other causes besides the depreciation of money which may account for a rise in the prices of commodities? The point for which I contend is, that when such rise is accompanied by a permanent rise in the price of that bullion which is the standard of currency, then to the amount of that rise is the currency depreciated. During the American war the rise in the prices of commodities was not attended with any rise in the price of bullion, and was therefore not occasioned by a depreciation of the currency.
We are now, for the first time, left to doubt, whether the principles of the Committee against which Mr. Bosanquet in the body of his work had so strongly contended, are really at variance with his own. We are now told not that the theory is erroneous, but “that the facts must be established before they can be reasoned upon,” “and that the importance of those facts would, in no degree, be lessened even by an unreserved admission of the accuracy of the principles assumed.” Does this declaration accord with Mr. Bosanquet’s conclusions? Certain principles are brought forward by the Bullion Committee, and which, if true, prove the fact of the depreciation of the currency. Your principles are plausible, and reason appears to sanction them, says Mr. Bosanquet, but here are facts to prove that they are inconsistent with past experience; and he further observes from Paley, “that when a theorem is proposed to a mathematician, the first thing he does with it is to try it on a simple case; if it produce a false result, he is sure there must be some error in the demonstration.” “The public must proceed in this way with the report, and submit its theories to the test of fact.” Can, then, Mr. Bosanquet be consistent in contending “that the importance of what, in his preceding pages, he had offered to the public, would be in no degree lessened even by an unreserved admission of the accuracy of the principles assumed?”
If the theory of the Committee is allowed to be accurate on the one hand, and Mr. Bosanquet’s facts are accurate on the other, what follows? Either that Mr. Bosanquet agrees with the Committee, or that his facts are totally inapplicable to the question. One other conclusion there is, but one which I have no intention to ascribe to Mr. Bosanquet;—That there may be a theory on the one side, and facts on the other; both true, and yet inconsistent.
As for Dr. Paley’s test, of trying the Committee’s theory by a simple case; Mr. Bosanquet might have tried it by a thousand, and would have found it accurately to correspond. Had he employed his leisure and ingenuity in tracing its application to the thousands of cases with which it accords, instead of hunting for two or three cases seemingly contradictory, and adopting them with fond credulity, he would have probably arrived at more just conclusions.
Mr. Bosanquet calls in question the accuracy of the following proposition of Mr. Huskisson, “that if one part of the currency of a country (provided such currency be made either directly or virtually legal tender according to its denomination) be depreciated, the whole of that currency, whether paper or coin, must be equally depreciated.”
The fact brought forward by Mr. Bosanquet, that the “extraordinary depreciation of the silver coin, in the reign of King William, did not depreciate the gold; that, on the contrary, the guinea, worth 21 perfect shillings, passed currently for 30 shillings,” does not prove the principle advanced by Mr. Huskisson to be at variance with experience, because gold was not then the current coin; it was not either directly or virtually legal tender; nor was it estimated at a fixed value by public authority: it passed in all payments as a piece of bullion of known weight and fineness. If by law it could not have passed for more than 21s. of the debased silver currency, it would, whilst in the state of coin, have been equally debased with the 21s. for which it would have exchanged. If guineas were now to be considered as a commodity, and were not by law prohibited from being exported or melted, they might pass in all payments at 24 or 25 shillings, whilst the Bank note continued of its present value.
Neither is the following principle of Mr. Huskisson, from which Mr. Bosanquet dissents,contrary to authority; “That if the quantity of gold, in a country whose currency consists of gold, should be increased in any given proportion, the quantity of other articles and the demand for them remaining the same, the value of any given commodity measured in the coin of that country would be increased in the same proportion.” Mr. Huskisson does not question, as Mr. Bosanquet supposes, the truth of the principle advanced by Dr. Adam Smith, “that the increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arises in any country from an increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value;” but says, that if the quantity of the precious metals increases in any country, whilst its wealth does not increase, or whilst its commodities remain the same in quantity, then will the value of the gold coin of such country diminish, or, in other words, goods will rise in price. Mr. Bosanquet himself, in the argument relating to the mine, has admitted that such would be the effect. To this passage from Mr. Huskisson’s book, however, I have an objection to offer, because he adds, that an increase in the prices of commodities would take place (page 5) under the circumstances supposed, “although no addition should actually be made to the coin of the country.” I hold it as a conclusion which will not admit of dispute, that if neither commodities, nor the demand for them, nor the money which circulates them, suffer either increase or diminution, prices must continue unaltered, whatever quantity of gold or silver may exist in the state of bullion in such country . It is hardly necessary to remark, that the case is wholly hypothetical, and is indeed impossible. There can be no great addition to the bullion of a country the currency of which is of its standard value, without causing an increase in the quantity of money.
I confess I was not a little surprised by the next point brought forward by Mr. Bosanquet, and I have no doubt it must have excited equal astonishment in many of his readers. Having contended throughout his work that Bank notes were not depreciated as compared with gold coin, that the same rise in the price of gold might have taken place, and actually had, on some occasions, taken place, whilst our currency consisted partly of gold, and partly of paper convertible into gold, at the will of the holder; after denying that there was any point of contact between gold for exportation and gold in coin, and that it was for want of such contact that its price had risen, we are now seriously told by Mr. Bosanquet that, “applying to this subject the most approved theories, he inclines to the belief that gold, since the new system of the Bank of England payments has been fully established, has not, in truth, continued to be the measure of value. Bank notes,” he maintains, “have since 1797 unquestionably become the measure of commerce, and the money of account, and it is on these grounds that he considers the proposition respecting the price of gold, on which so much reliance is placed, as one of those which, though he admits the principle, he hesitates at the application.” Whether the Bank Directors, or others who have so confidently asserted that, admitting gold to be the standard, its high price did not prove the depreciation of the currency, will be pleased with a defence on such principles, which yields all for which the Committee contend, it is not for me to enquire. That gold is no longer in practice the standard by which our currency is regulated is a truth. It is the ground of the complaint of the Committee (and of all who have written on the same side) against the present system.
The holder of money has been injured, inasmuch as there is no standard reference by which his property can be protected. He has suffered a loss of 16 per cent. since 1797, and there is no security for him that it may not shortly be 25, 30, or even 50 per cent. more. Who will consent to hold money or securities, the interest on which is payable in money, on such terms? There is no sacrifice which a man holding such property should not make, to secure to himself some provision for the future whilst such a system is avowed. Mr. Bosanquet has, in these few words, said as much in favour of the repeal of the restriction bill as all the writers, all the theorists, have advanced since the discussion of this subject commenced. What, then, does Mr. Bosanquet admit that we have no standard because it is no longer gold? Let us hear what he says : “If a pound note be the denomination, it will, of course, be asked what is the standard?
“The question is not easy of solution. But, considering the high proportion which the dealings between government and the public bear to the general circulation, it is probable the standard may be found in those transactions; and it seems not more difficult to imagine that the standard value of a one pound note may be the interest of 33l. 6s. 8d.—3 per cent. stock, than that such standard has reference to a metal, of which none remains in circulation, and of which the annual supply, even as a commodity, does not amount to one twentieth part of the foreign expences of government in one year.”
So then we have a standard for a pound Bank note, it is the interest of 33l. 6s. 8d.—3 per cent. stock. Now, in what medium is this interest paid? because that must be the standard. The holder of 33l. 6s. 8d. stock receives at the Bank a one pound note. Bank notes are, therefore, according to the theory of a practical man, the standard by which alone the depreciation of Bank notes can be estimated!
A puncheon of rum has 16 per cent. of its contents taken out, and water poured in for it. What is the standard by which Mr. Bosanquet attempts to detect the adulteration? A sample of the adulterated liquor taken out of the same cask.
We are next told, that “if the Bank really possess a large stock of gold, or only to the extent of six or seven millions, the best use they can make of it is to call in all the notes under 5l., and not re-issue any of this description.”
How could bankers and manufacturers be enabled to effect their small payments if the gold, thus partially issued, were at the present exchange and price of bullion to be either exported or melted? If the Bank did not issue small notes, and they could not procure guineas for large ones, they would be obliged to cease such payments altogether. The more I have reflected on this subject, the more convinced I am that the evil admits of no other safe remedy but a reduction in the amount of Bank notes.
NOTES FROM RICARDO’S MANUSCRIPTS
NOTES ON BENTHAM’S ‘SUR LES PRIX’
NOTE ON ‘NOTES ON BENTHAM’
Ricardo wrote his comments on Dumont’s French translation of Bentham’s papers on currency between 25 December 1810 and 11 January 1811. They are here published for the first time.
Mill, who had been consulted by Dumont as to ‘the propriety of publishing’, sent Dumont’s MS to Ricardo, asking him to read it and to write down his remarks, ‘and to make them pretty minute.’ Mill’s own opinion, after having read the first part of Dumont’s MS, was not favourable: ‘they are loose papers of the author, not put in order, on a subject which he ceased to study before he had probed it to the bottom.’ Ricardo and Mill seem to have agreed in advising against publication; but as Dumont was anxious to proceed with it, a meeting between the three of them was arranged for 11 January at Ricardo’s house at Mile End; the outcome of their discussion is not recorded, but in the end publication did not take place.
Bentham had written his papers on currency many years before. On 25 February 1801, writing to arrange for the publication of a reply which he intended to make to Boyd’s recent pamphlet , he said that the subject of currency had ‘occupied a considerable share of [his] attention for some time’, and added that ‘one day, perhaps’ he might devote to the subject ‘a regular work, not dependent on times or persons’. Two months later he appears to have amalgamated the two projects, intending to publish a single work to deal with Boyd and at the same time to expound his own views on the subject. In a letter of 20 April 1801 to Nicholas Vansittart, he wrote that ‘for about these two years’ the chief part of his time had been occupied with the subject of money: ‘I am preparing a pamphlet, to which I think of giving for a title, The True Alarm, (in contradistinction and reference to Mr Boyd’s, which appears to me to be in great measure, though perhaps not wholly, false) or Thoughts on Pecuniary Credit,— its advantages, inconveniencies, dangers, and their remedies. By the inconveniences, I mean rise of prices, (allowance made for the still greater, but temporary effects of bad seasons.) By the danger, I mean that of general bankruptcy. By the remedy, I do not mean the suppression of paper money,—a remedy which would at once convert the danger into the hight of the disease.’
Of these early projects of Bentham, Dumont later wrote in the Introduction to his own translation: ‘L’auteur avoit entrepris son ouvrage à une epoque où il regnoit une grande alarme en Angleterre re´lativement à la disette, à la hausse des prix et àla multiplication du papier-monnoie: Alarme etoit le titre general de tous les manuscrits. L’intention de l’auteur etoit de justifier les craintes publiques relativement à la hausse des prix et à la ruine probable du credit pecuniaire par l’augmentation indefinie du papier-monnoie—mais il ne vouloit se joindre aux alarmistes et augmenter l’effroi que pour se faire ecouter en proposant les remedes. Alarme etoit le principe—securite´ etoit le re´sultat.’
The project of publication came to nothing and Bentham entirely abandoned the papers which he had written on the subject. Some time between 1802 and 1810 he handed over all the MSS to Dumont, at the request of the latter, who intended to translate and arrange for publication this disorganised mass of material, as he had done for other works of Bentham.
A note written by Dumont at some later date on the MS of the translation, runs: ‘Ces manuscrits avoient e´te´ entierement abandonne´s par l’auteur—il me les remit à ma demande en m’avertissant que d’essai en essai il avoit souvent change´ d’avis, qu’il e´toit sans cesse revenu sur ses pas et qu’il n’y avoit point d’ordre dans les Mss. quoiqu’il y en eut un dans le re´sultat &c. J’ai cherche´à le trouver en divisant l’ouvrage en 3 parties qui me paroissent distinctes—mais ilyaun grand nombre d’essais qui ne contiennent que des repetitions, entre lesquelles il faudroit choisir.’
It is the MS of this translation, still somewhat chaotic, which Dumont, when the interest in currency questions had been stimulated by the Bullion Controversy, sent to James Mill, who passed it on to Ricardo.
Ricardo’s comments amounted to a detailed criticism of the work. They add little to what was already known of his views on currency at this time, and their chief interest lies in that they provide some indication of his early views on other questions of political economy.
Dumont’s MS, with Ricardo’s commentary, remained among Dumont’s papers and was presented by his heir, Dr Duval, to the Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire de Genève in 1870, where it is preserved. It is there catalogued under the title ‘Mate´riaux d’un traite´ sur la hausse des prix et les effets du papiermonnaie’, and classmarked Ms. D. 50 (Inventaire 1495).
Dumont’s papers bear no general title, but in one place (fol. 338) the work is referred to as Sur les prix. The work is composed of a number of separate Chapters or Propositions, each written on a separate quire, of a variable number of sheets. These Chapters were grouped by Dumont in three Books, as follows:
Livre I. Pre´liminaires. De la Richesse conside´re´e dans ses modifications, sa valeur et ses sources.
Livre II. De la hausse des prix et des effets du papiermonnoye.
Livre III. Remedes.
On Livres I and II of Dumont’s MS Ricardo marked the passages on which he commented with marginal numbers (1–39 for Livre I, and 1–71 for Livre II) which correspond to those of his Notes. The Notes themselves were written on other sheets.
Within each Book Dumont numbered neither the pages, nor the quires, nor the Chapters. In the present edition the Chapters are arranged in the order of Ricardo’s Notes, which must have been that of the MS as he received it. For Book I, however, Dumont wrote, apparently at a later period, on paper water- marked 1807, a Table of Contents in which the Chapters were numbered. These numbers have been here prefixed to the Chapter headings.
The Geneva Ms. D. 50 consists of 488 folios (including 43 blanks), made up as follows:
Fols. 1–19. Ricardo’s Notes, covering 14 folios of quarto note- paper and 5 of large foolscap.
Fols. 20–29. A series of notes in English on a French book of political economy, not identified, in John Stuart Mill’s youthful handwriting, with corrections in James Mill’s handwriting, on paper watermarked 1824. (These have no connection with the Dumont-Ricardo MS and must have been included under a misapprehension.)
Fols. 30–137. Livre I (including the Introduction and one quire of Livre II).
Fols. 138–337. Livre II. Fols. 338–433. Livre III.
(Fols. 30–433 are written in Dumont’s handwriting, on one side only, on quarto paper watermarked 1794, of English make; except fol. 30, containing the Table of Contents mentioned above, p. 264, which is watermarked 1807.)
Fols. 434–439. ‘Essai d’un resume´ general’ (of Bentham’s work) in Dumont’s handwriting, on foolscap paper watermarked 1802, of English make.
The remainder of the MS, ending with fol. 488, consists of miscellaneous papers in Dumont’s handwriting on various economic subjects (including an essay on Thornton’s Paper Credit).
Of the original papers of Bentham which Dumont used for his work, none are among the MSS at Geneva. There are, however, some fragments among the Bentham MSS at University College, London: they are described in the Catalogue as ‘Political economy—paper mischief; 1800’ and ‘Alarm remedies; 1801’ (Box III (a), fols. 84–147 and 148–171).
The same method of printing has been adopted in this case as for the Notes on Malthus in Vol. II. So much of Dumont’s MS as is necessary for the understanding of Ricardo’s Notes has been printed in smaller type on the upper part of the page (omissions being indicated by points); and the corresponding Notes of Ricardo are printed in larger type on the lower part of the page. (An opening, i.e. two pages facing one another, is for this purpose regarded as a single page.) The reference numbers have been placed as Ricardo placed them on Dumont’s MS. All but the purely verbal corrections in Ricardo’s MS have been noticed in footnotes. Dumont’s own remarks written on the margins of his MS and referring to difficulties in Bentham’s original papers have been inserted in the text in square brackets.
Since the above Note and the text below have been in page- proof Mr E. Silberner has published Ricardo’s notes (together with Ricardo’s letter to Dumont of 6 Jan. 1811 )inthe Revue d’Histoire économique et sociale, vol. xxv (1940), p. 195 ff. On the basis of Dumont’s statement that he sent the MS to Ricardo in 1808, Mr Silberner has argued at some length in his Introduction that Bentham had a decisive intellectual influence in directing Ricardo’s interest towards the study of monetary questions, some time before Ricardo had published anything. Since, however, as we have seen above (p. 263, n. 1), Dumont’s statement about the date is a mistake for 1810, and the MS was in fact sent to Ricardo almost exactly a year after the publication of his High Price of Bullion, this argument loses its basis.
A letter of Ricardo to Mill of 1 Jan. 1811 , which has come to light with the Mill-Ricardo papers, gives a summary of Ricardo’s views on Bentham’s work while he was reading it.
livre i. pre´liminaires.
De la Richesse Conside´re´e Dans Ses Modifications, Sa Valeur et Ses Sources
La valeur de l’argent n’est à pre´sent (en 1801) que la moitie´de ce qu’elle etoit il y a 40 ans: elle ne sera dans 40 ans que la moitie´1 de ce qu’elle est à pre´sent.
Ces deux propositions servent de base à cet ouvrage et aux mesures qu’on indique pour pre´venir ce mal....
Augmentation des prix ou depre´ciation de l’argent ne sont que2 deux manieres differentes d’exprimer le même fait.
Il y a plusieurs hypotheses communes pour rendre compte de l’augmentation des prix—on en accuse quelquefois les mauvaises saisons, mais alors ce n’est qu’un effet passager—on l’impute plus commune´ment aux taxes, et l’ope´ration de cette cause est incontestable, mais elle est bien loin de suffire pour expliquer l’effet tout entier, et chacun peut observer que les articles de consommation les plus essentiels, le ble´, le foin, le charbon, la viande3 de boucherie ont augmente´ de prix sans avoir e´te´ l’objet d’aucune taxe directe. On l’attribue à l’augmentation du nume´raire, àla multiplication du papier, et c’est la, d’après toutes les recherches que j’ai pu faire, qu’il faut chercher la grande cause, la veritable cause qui explique cette depre´ciation passe´e du nume´raire et qui pre´pare la depre´ciation future.
D’un autre côte´, s’il est une circonstance qui puisse servir4 d’indice à la prospe´rite´ nationale, il semble que ce soit surtout l’etat avantageux du cre´dit pe´cuniaire, tel qu’il se manifeste dans l’accroissement du papier-monnoie.
La bonne-foi en est la base: la richesse re´elle et substantielle en est le re´sultat. C’est un sujet d’orgueil national soit qu’on tourne ses regards sur son origine soit qu’on les porte sur ses effets.
Mais ce n’est pas un bien sans me´lange: il renferme un mal actuel qui l’emporte peut être sur le bien et un danger qui, s’il venoit àsere´aliser, excederoit sans aucun doute tous ses avantages.
Le mal est celui d’une taxe indirecte qui affecte tous les revenus fixes, taxe en comparaison de laquelle toutes les autres ensemble, toutes celles qui portent ce nom, ne sont presque rien, ensorte que le fardeau qui re´sulte de la guerre s’evanouït presque quand on le compare à ce fardeau qui re´sulte de la paix.
Il est certain que cette depre´ciation, si one´reuse pour une classe de la nation, est compense´e pour d’autres classes qui s’elevent dans l’echelle de la fortune pendant que les autres descendent: mais cette compensation ne re´tablit pas l’e´galite´ entre le bien et le mal, parce qu’il paroit que le mal est vivement senti et que le bien est à peine apperc¸u.
Quant au danger, c’est le plus grand de tous les maux contingents, c’est une banqueroute universelle [Dumont’s note: ‘ceci sera-t-il prouve´?’]: catastrophe dont il est impossible de calculer l’epoque avec pre´cision, mais dont on peut demontrer la certitude5 si on ne prend aucune mesure pour la pre´venir....
Quoique ce mal conside´re´ dans ses effets soit tel qu’il seroit difficile d’en faire un tableau trop effrayant, il presente deux circonstances qui doivent contribuer à tranquilliser les esprits et à pre´venir les murmures.
La premiere, c’est que ce mal n’est fonde´ sur aucun acte d’in- justice de la part de ses auteurs imme´diats, les ne´gociants et les6 banquiers. Aucun blame moral ne peut s’attacher à leur conduite: ils agissent sous la protection des loix: il n’y a point de reproche à faire à leurs intentions....
La seconde circonstance, qui doit dissiper les alarmes, c’est
que la gravite´ de la maladie n’est pas plus certaine que l’efficace et l’innocence du remede. C’est dans l’emission illimite´e du papier-monnoie et du nume´raire qu’est le mal, c’est dans la limitation pure et simple que se trouve le remede.
Dans le cours de cette recherche, il sera prouve´ en sus que l’augmentation des prix, entant qu’elle resulte de celle du nume´- raire me´tallique, n’a point e´te´ productive d’un accroissement de7 richesse re´elle—entant qu’elle resulte de l’augmentation du papiermonnoie, elle a e´te´ productive d’un accroissement de richesse re´elle, mais d’un accroissement qui cessoit d’être un bien en re´sultant de cette cause, et qui auroit pu être produit avec moins d’inconvenient par des sommes d’argent que le gouvernement auroit leve´es par des taxes directes.
Une consideration qui devroit nous re´concilier avec un sacrifice aussi leger d’accroissement de richesse re´elle que celui qui resulte du papier-monnoie illimite´, c’est l’ope´ration du fonds d’amortissement. Chaque million employe´à payer la dette, c.a.d., à racheter les annuite´s du Gouvernemt dans lesquelles consiste la dette, est autant d’ajoute´ au capital national. Cet argent leve´ par des taxes qui tombent principalement sur le revenu, passe dans les mains des ex-cre´anciers qui pour en tirer un revenu doivent l’employer en guise de capital ou le prêter à ceux qui le font valoir sous cette forme.
L’effet de ce torrent de Capital sera d’avancer la production de la richesse re´elle aussi longtemps qu’il restera une capacite´de8 travail à mettre en uvre et aussi rapidement que cette capacite´ peut être mise en action.
La classe des Capitalistes, riches ou peu riches, sera ainsi soumise à une double perte: l’une qui leur est commune avec toutes les9 personnes qui ont des revenus fixes et qui consiste dans la depre´ciation de l’argent: l’autre qui leur est particulièreetqui consiste dans une defalcation directe de cette quantite´ d’argent deprecie´ dont leur revenu se compose. [Dumont’s note: ‘Ceci ne me paroit pas intelligible—de quelle defalcation s’agit- il?’]
L’emigration des Capitaux se presente comme une espece de remede: le capital qui emigre arrête l’augmentation des prix entant qu’il depend de celle du nume´raire: et le Capital qui emigre10 soutient la valeur de celui qui reste. L’emigration du Capital est donc un bien si elle ne va pas jusqu’à augmenter le taux de l’inte´rêt: re´sultat qu’on ne doit pas craindre, parceque ce seroit un effet au delà de la cause, et pro tanto sans cause.
Si l’on considere encore l’accroissement rapide de la population, tel qu’il a e´te´même durant la guerre, si l’on observe qu’il iroit bientôt par son cours naturel au point d’exce´der les subsistences que les deux isles pourroient produire, on reconnoitra que l’emigration des hommes et des Capitaux est un bien re´el11 dans l’etat pre´sent de la grande-Bretagne.
En effet, s’il vaut mieux être dans une situation de prospe´rite´ progressive que stationnaire ou retrograde, s’il est plus heureux d’avancer que de reculer, de monter que de descendre, plus notre marche est lente dans cette carrière de succès, plus elle est conforme à la saine raison. Ce ne sont pas là, j’en conviens, les vues communes de nos spe´culateurs et de nos Midas, mais plus on se livre à un examen de´taille´, plus on se confirme dans ces re´sultats.
Ces opinions se pre´sentent d’abord sous un air de paradoxe— avancer que le papier-monnoie, ce simulacre de l’argent, est12 productif d’une richesse re´elle—que l’argent me´tallique, cette re´alite´ substantielle, n’en produit point—et que les seules especes de monnoie qui aient la faculte´ d’ajouter à la richesse re´elle soient pre´cisement les seules qui puissent amener la catastrophe´ d’une banqueroute—ce sont là des propositions qui ont un caractere de nouveaute´ pour bien des lecteurs et qui m’auroient paru etranges à moi-même, lorsque j’ai commence´à me livrer à ces recherches....
1. As I attribute the fall in the value of money during the last 40 years to the increase of the metals from which money is made, I cannot anticipate a similar fall in the next 40 years unless we should discover new and abundant mines of the precious metals.
The argument in this chapter is that an increase of paper money has the same effects in increasing prices as an increase of metallic money. This is no doubt true, but we should recollect that paper money cannot be increased without causing a depreciation of such money as compared with the precious metals. It would therefore be true that the evils of an abundance of paper money would be visible by a rise in the prices of commodities,—but a paper money which should never be of less value than the coins which it represents can never be in more abundance than those coins would have been if there had been no paper. The value of gold may be affected by the increase of paper but it will speedily regain its value, as the mines would cease to supply the usual quantity owing to the diminished profits. No paper circulation can therefore be permanently of less value than the coins which they truly represent.
2. Is this passage quite correct? May there not be an augmentation in the price of commodities whilst the value of money continued absolutely stationary?
3. Commodities may rise from taxation tho’ they are not subject to any direct taxation themselves. If a tax were laid on bread every commodity would rise, as there is no commodity to the production of which the labour of man is not necessary.
4. A rise of prices from depreciation of money is no proof of national prosperity.
5. The evils of depreciation have been fairly described in the last paragraph, and actually consist in defrauding creditors of their just demand. Bankruptcy may be said to commence with depreciation; it may be so gradual as to prevent all convulsion,—its ultimate effects is to enrich one class of the society at the expence of another.
6. Is it not an immoral act to take advantage of a law the consequences of which the legislature had not in contemplation, to enrich yourself at the expense of your fellow citizens?
7. I wish the author had defined what he meant by real wealth. As I understand those words I can have no conception that a paper money can cause an increase of real wealth, whilst a metallic currency cannot.
If he applies his observation to the revenue of government only, there can be no doubt that taxes paid in a depreciated currency are of no more real value on account of the increase of their amount, whilst their standard is in the same degree depreciated.
8. The sinking fund is capital not money and therefore cannot raise prices.
The Capital liberated by the sinking fund is not a creation of capital,—it is merely a transfer from the pockets of those who pay the necessary tax to create that fund, to the public creditor. The same effects would have followed if there had been no sinking fund, and the contributors had accumulated their portions of the tax into Capital. Again its numerical amount is of no consequence we must judge of its real amount by the quantity of industry which it can employ. The author argues as if it were a capital created.
9. The loss is here reckoned twice over.
10. What has the emigration of Capital to do with the depreciation of money. The depreciation of money neither promotes nor retards the accumulation of Capital. If Capital be transferred for advantageous employment to other countries it can arise only from its accumulation which is totally independent of the value of the circulating medium.
definitions et distinctions— argent—richesse, re´elle, pecuniaire— nume ´ raire—papier-monnoie.
Le mot Argent a plusieurs acceptations qu’il est important de bien distinguer. Il exprime le nume´raire, le me´tal portant empreinte, et n’ayant d’autre fonction que de passer de main en main en e´change de toutes sortes de choses.
Dans un autre sens qu’on peut appeller figuratif, il est employe´ pour toutes les choses mêmes, pour toutes les richesses....
Cette malheureuse metonymie a occasionne´ des erreurs bien graves: Pour n’avoir pas distingue´ l’argent, le nume´raire, d’avec la richesse, les hommes ont imagine´ qu’accroître l’argent, le nume´raire, c’etoit la même chose qu’accroître la richesse, et qu’on14 ne pouvoit accroître la richesse qu’en accroissant l’argent, le nume´raire: tandis que l’accroissem.t de l’argent (excepte´ sous la forme de papier-monnoie) ne contribue point à l’accroissement de la richesse: et que passe´ certaines limites, cet accroissement devienne pernicieux.
Le mot de richesse re´elle avertit assez de la distinction qui existe entr’elle et la richesse pe´cuniaire: mais il a l’inconve´nient de donner à entendre que la richesse pe´cuniaire n’est pas une richesse re´elle: ide´e qui n’est pas tout à fait juste: car quoique l’argent, sous la forme de monnoie, ne soit de lui-même bon à rien, excepte´à l’echanger contre les´ choses utiles, il a outre cette grande utilite´, la capacite´ de se convertir en une infinite´ d’usages, sous la forme d’ustensiles et d’ornements, capacite´ sans laquelle il n’eut jamais obtenu la valeur qu’il possede pour servir à l’echange.
11. It can never be allowed that the emigration of Capital can be beneficial to a state. A loss of capital may immediately change an increasing state to a stationary or retrograde state. A nation is only advancing whilst it accumulates capital. Great Britain is far distant from the point where capital can no longer be advantageously accumulated. I do not mean to deny that individual capitalists will be benefited by emigration in many cases,—but England even if she received the revenues from the Capital employed in other countries would be a real sufferer.
12. I confess these opinions appear to me paradoxical; I will however endeavor to give to the authors views the most unprejudiced attention.
[13. I should find great difficulty to admit this proposition.]
14. Money cannot be increased if there have not been a previous increase of the precious metals. No advantage whatever attends the increase of money,—but as it must be preceded by an augmentation of the precious metals and as those precious metals are used to gratify the desires of man, by affording him plate &ca.,—their increase is an increase of the riches and enjoyments of man.
I perceive that this is admitted in the following paragraph.
de la richesse conside ´re´epar rapport a ses modifications—a sa valeur—et a ses sources.
La richesse nationale n’est susceptible d’un accroissement considerable que par rapport au fonds des articles de valeur d’imagination, du luxe des superfluite´s. Il n’est pas dans la nature de l’homme d’entasser le pur ne´cessaire au delà de ses besoins. Quand le paysan Irlandois a seme´ une quantite´ suffisante de pommes de terre pour son entretien annuel, se donneroit-il la15 peine inutile d’en semer davantage? Non sans doute, à moins que par la vente de cette quantite´ superflue, il n’entrevoye qu’il pourra se procurer d’autres objets de desir qui ne sont pas pour lui du ne´cessaire absolu. C’est donc par l’addition à la masse des objets de luxe et non par l’addition à la masse du ne´cessaire, tant que ce ne´cessaire n’est pas un besoin, que la masse de la richesse nationale peut s’accroître.
Diminution de valeur par augmentation d’argent.
Chaque somme de nume´raire, introduite dans la circulation, a deux effets oppose´s—elle ajoute à la richesse dans un sens et dans un autre, elle la diminue: elle ajoute à la richesse d’un individu ou d’une classe d’individus, et tôt ou tard, elle diminue la richesse d’un autre individu ou d’une autre classe d’individus. Elle ajoute à la richesse, non seulement d’un individu, mais de toute la Communaute´, parce qu’etant donne´e en e´change soit d’un travail productif soit d’un article de´jà produit, elle fait naȸtre une portion de richesse qui autrement n’auroit pas existe´. Elle diminue la richesse, non de la Communaute´ en general, mais de certaines classes de la Communaute´, parce qu’en augmentant la quantite´ du nume´raire elle diminue sa valeur, compare´e àla valeur de tous les articles ve´naux. La masse originale du nume´raire etoit avant l’addition e´gale en valeur à toute la masse des objets à vendre. [Dumont’s note: ‘Cette proposition est-elle prouve´e? Ne peut-on pas concevoir que la masse des objets ve´naux surpasseroit de beaucoup en valeur toute la masse du nume´raire? Il n’y a que 60 millions nume´raire en Angleterre: n’y a-t-il pas16 un capital re´el pour une valeur triple, quadruple et peut être decuple?’] Après l’addition, la valeur du numeraire augmente´ est encore egale à celle des objets à vendre, mais elle ne peut pas être plus grande puisqu’il n’y a rien de plus à donner en echange pour ce surplus—chaque piece de l’ancien nume´raire eprouve donc une diminution, exactement proportionnelle àla quantite´ de nouveau nume´raire....
Chaque personne qui introduit dans la circulation une nouvelle somme de nume´raire impose donc à l’ensemble total des possesseurs du nume´raire une taxe e´gale au montant de la somme nouvelle.
Ainsi la sûrete´ par rapport à la proprie´te´ est à peine etablie qu’il se manifeste un nouveau principe d’insecurite´, qui semble en être inse´parable.
Mais cette infraction de la sûrete est bien differente des autres: on peut la pre´voir et la regler....
Il est remarquable que ce principe d’insecurite´ est ne´dela17 sûrete´ perfectionne´e. Il n’y a que la plus grande confiance dans l’administration de la justice qui ait pu accrediter ces e´missions de papier-monnoie qui ont si fort degrade´ la valeur du nume´raire.
15. The national capital can never be augmented by an increase of the articles of luxury. The wages of labour are spent in the purchase of necessaries,—those necessaries must therefore be augmented before any increased industry can be called forth.
16. Altho’ it were to be allowed that the commodities circulated were 100 times, in value, the money which circulates them, it would be equally certain that their rise or fall would be in proportion to the increase or diminution of money; because it is the rapidity of the circulation of money which would cause any given portion to be 100 times opposed to the same description of goods. If goods of a million in value could be circulated by £10,000,—the million would not be less opposed to a million of money,—but the ten thousand pounds by the rapidity of its circulation would be 100 times in that market. This is on the supposition that such goods were only sold once but as they may be successively sold,—the £10,000 if that sum were adequate would not circulate only 100 times but as much oftener as sales to that amount should be effected.—
The manner in which money is depreciated by an increased quantity is very clearly described,—the public require some explanation on that subject.
We must not however forget that the precious metals are used for other purposes besides money.
richesse, ses modifications.
du revenu en general, et du revenu pecuniaire en particulier.
On entend generalement par Revenu cette portion de bien qui arrive periodiquement dans la possession d’un individu, en sorte que quoiqu’il l’ait entierement consomme´e, il peut s’attendre à la voir remplace´e en entier....
Le mot de Capital est employe´ pour exprimer les economies18 faites sur le revenu passe´: lesquelles economies sont des sources de revenu futur.
Dans nos climats Europe´ens, chaque anne´e a sa moisson et n’en a qu’une....
Avec nous par consequent le mot de revenu se rapporte toujours à la periode d’une anne´e. On entend le revenu annuel. Par le revenu de la Communaute´, c.a.d. son revenu re´el, on entend la portion de richesse renouvelle´e par la Communaute´ dans le cours de l’anne´e. Le mot Capital n’a rapport à rien de pe´riodique.
Par Revenu, on entend quelquefois ce qu’on peut appeller revenu re´el, et quelquefois revenu pe´cuniaire.
Par revenu re´el, j’entends les choses elles-mêmes, les choses de toute espece employe´es ou consomme´es par les individus pour leur usage.
Par revenu pe´cuniaire, j’entends ce que tout le monde entend,— l’argent employe´ par les individus à acheter les choses dont leur revenu re´el est compose´....
Le revenu pecuniaire de la Communaute´, excepte´ ce qui est the´saurise´ ou ce qui est employe´ sous la forme de Capital pe´cuniaire, sert aux differents achats et constitue les prix des articles19 dont la plus grande partie du revenu re´el est compose´: l’autre partie du revenu re´el etant obtenue sans argent, soit par la production domestique, soit par echange, soit gratis.
La plus grande partie du revenu re´el est consomme´e (c.a.d. detruite) annuellement.
Le revenu pe´cuniaire ne se detruit point excepte´ par accident et un peu par usure. Il passe de main en main, il va comme dans un cercle.
Chez les nations les plus avance´es dans la civilisation, la plus grande partie du revenu re´el de la Communaute´ est transmise aux individus par le moyen (medium) du revenu pe´cuniaire: chacun rec¸oit en argent sa portion du revenu re´el.
Un homme peut appliquer son revenu pe´cuniaire à cinq emplois differents 1o l’employer à l’achat du revenu re´el 2o le the´sauriser 3 le placer en forme de capital 4 le de´poser chez un banquier qui le prête à inte´rêt, gardant par devers lui une partie pour son fonds de securite´ 5 le distribuer en dons gratuits ou conditionnels.
Par rapport à la portion de ce revenu pe´cuniaire qu’il employe à l’achat de revenu re´el, à mesure qu’il obtient l’un, il se desaissit de l’autre: à mesure que le revenu re´el vient, le revenu pecuniaire s’en va. Ce n’est qu’en donnant le shelling qu’il obtient la valeur du shelling: excepte´ les cas d’achat à cre´dit, dans lesquels la remise de l’argent est retarde´e plus ou moins jusqu’après la recette des marchandises achete´es.
Tout cela paroit assez clair. Cependant Adam Smith n’a pas eu des ide´es suffisamment nettes sur le sujet. Il se demande à lui-même de quelle matiere un revenu [‘est compose´’ is del. here by mistake], si c’est de l’argent ou des choses qu’on se procure pour de l’argent à mesure qu’on s’en de´fait: il s’embarrasse dans ce nud et enfin se de´cide en faveur des choses—Selon cette decision, un homme n’a point de revenu quand il a rec¸u son argent, il ne l’a qu’au moment où il s’en de´saissit. Si un20 homme parvient à economiser son revenu tout entier, ce qui sûrement n’est pas un cas très rare, suivant Adam Smith, il n’aura point eu de revenu. D’où vient cette erreur? C’est que sous le nom de revenu, il s’etoit fait une ide´e abstraite, une ide´e fantastique, sans re´alite´, au lieu de penser à son propre revenu, et de considerer l’usage qu’il en faisoit, sans subtilite´ et sans mystere. Adam Smith a converti en lumiere une grande masse de fume´e: mais il y a aussi des cas où il a converti en fume´e ce qui etoit auparavant lumiere.
Du revenu Naturel et Conventionnel.
Toute la masse du revenu re´el de chaque anne´e doit avoir e´te´ en premiere instance à son origine le revenu, la proprie´te´ des classes productives. Tant qu’il reste dans les mains de ceux qui21 l’ont produit par leur travail et leur capital, on peut l’appeler le revenu originaire et natif.
C’est de leurs mains que ces differents articles du revenu re´el doivent être sortis pour passer dans les mains des individus de la classe improductive.
La partie du revenu originaire qui passe ainsi dans d’autres mains que celles des producteurs peut s’appeler la partie extraite du revenu national....
Le revenu total avant qu’on en ait rien extrait, est aussi ce que j’appelle le revenu naturel: la partie extraite pour être distribue´e aux classes improductives est ce que j’appelle revenu conventionnel: c’est en vertu d’une convention ante´rieure que les producteurs sont tenus de le livrer aux individus de ces classes.
Sous d’autres points de vue, il convient de distinguer le revenu en revenu absolu et en revenu re´latif—J’appelle absolu le revenu re´el, le revenu naturel celui qui ne pourroit être ane´anti sans diminuer d’autant la masse de la richesse de la Communaute´— J’appelle revenu re´latif celui qui pourroit être ane´anti par rapport à ceux qui le rec¸oivent, sans que la richesse de la Communaute´ en fut diminue´e....
Les sources du revenu absolu sont 1o le travail et le fonds (stock) employe´ dans l’agriculture 2 dans les mines 3 dans la pêche 4 dans les arts me´chaniques et les beaux arts 5 dans les manufactures.
Les modifications ou sources du revenu re´latif ou conventionnel sont—
1oObligations de payer des rentes—pour l’usage de la terre....
2oObligations de payer un revenu à epoques fixes pour inte´rêt d’argent prête´....
4oRevenu consistant en gages de travail: sans aucune obligation ante´rieure, mais en vertu d’un choix libre de la part des individus et par une convention qui peut cesser et se renouveller à chaque service.—C’est à ce chef qu’appartiennent les revenus des medecins, des instituteurs, des avocats, et ceux des domestiques.
C’est encore à ce chef qu’il faut rapporter les gages du travail productif, de ce travail par lequel est produite la masse des choses qui constituent la matiere du revenu re´el: car c’est par une convention, à parler en general, que chaque ouvrier individuellement rec¸oit sa part de revenu. [Dumont’s note: ‘Ceci me paroit contestable à certains e´gards et incontestable à d’autres. L’ouvrier en draps ne se nourrit pas de draps: mais l’agriculteur se nourrit en partie du produit de la terre; le pêcheur se nourrit en partie de sa pêche.—Ce qu’il a de plus que le ne´cessaire physique, il le22 tire du revenu relatif.?’]
5o... Revenu extrait par les impôts....
17. Whilst Banks pay in specie there can be no additions to the circulation which can permanently lower the value of money,—because they cannot permanently lower the value of gold and silver. Those metals would not have been of greater value now if no bank had ever been heard of.
18. Articles of luxury which this author supposes to be the great object of increase cannot as I have already observed be the sources of future revenue.
19. The whole of the explanations following are very satisfactory and give a very correct idea of the real source of price.
20. Inasmuch as it would be impossible for every man or a great portion to realise their pecuniary revenue Adam Smith was right. For example 10 men save out of their pecuniary revenue 1000£ each, which they lend at interest or deposit at their Bankers,—the society should therefore be richer by £10,000 money, but in all probability it is not £1000 richer in money the greatest part has realised itself in goods which are in hands of those who have borrowed the money saved. It makes no difference whether those who saved it lent it themselves or by depositing it with a banker enabled him to do it. In no case can a pecuniary revenue be realised in the form of money but by hoarding. “Si un homme parviene à economiser son revenue tout entier, ce qui surement n’est pas un cas tres rare, suivant Adam Smith, il n’aura point eu de revenu.” He would have a revenue but it would realise itself in the hands of him to whom he lent it in the shape of commodities. The money of the country would have been augmented in a very trifling degree,—and the remainder would be wholly commodities.
The absolute revenue is produced by the labour of one man with the Capital of another, which shall be called the unproductive?
21. The mass of real revenue is derived from Capital and Capital is derived from the savings of the productive class, the capital must therefore once have been revenue, but the produce of that capital could never have been revenue. If from my revenue I save 100£ which next year produces me £10-the £10-is new revenue never having existed in that state before.—If this again is employed as capital it will yield a new revenue which never existed in that or any other shape before.
With this correction the argument founded on it appears to me perfectly correct.
22. [This remark would be just if in the real revenue the produce of the earth, of the seas, mines, and labour of man were not all included. It is taking from that real revenue to pay one sort of labour as much as another. The wages of the manufacturer as well as those of the cultivator of the earth no matter in what he is paid are derived from the same source.]
See No. 44.
21. This is rather mysterious. Does the author mean the net revenue of the productive classes of all sorts after paying themselves for their subsistence during the period of reproduction, or is it the gross produce. If whilst I am consuming a sack of wheat I can by my labour produce two would he call my revenue 2 sacks or one sack. If he answers one then the objection in the margin 22 is well founded because the wages of labour have been already deducted.
[23. I cannot agree with this last remark.]
richesse—conside ´re´e dans sa valeur.
Les termes de richesse et de valeur s’expliquent l’un par l’autre. Pour pouvoir entrer dans la composition d’une masse de richesse, il faut qu’un article possede une valeur quelconque. C’est par les degre´s de cette valeur que la richesse est mesure´e.
Toute valeur est fonde´e sur l’utilite´, sur l’usage qu’on peut24 faire de la chose. Point d’usage, point de valeur. Ainsi comme c’est toujours sous le rapport de subsistence, de defense ou de jou¨ssance qu’un article de la matiere de la richesse peut avoir son usage, c’est aussi sous ces mêmes points de vue qu’il a une valeur.
i. La premiere distinction qui se presente, est entre usage ou valeur imme´diate ou intrinseque, et valeur eloigne´e ou relative (subservient)....
ii. La seconde distinction est entre les articles d’une valeur essentielle et invariable, et les articles d’une valeur variable et de fantaisie.
Les articles d’une valeur invariable sont les aliments, les vêtements, le chauffage, les logements, et surtout les moins dispendieux de chaque espece. Les articles d’une valeur variable et de fantaisie ne renferment que les objets de pure jouïssance....
Les valeurs de fantaisie sont le grand fonds de se´curite´ pour les valeurs essentielles. Tous les objects de luxe peuvent se convertir, au moyen de l’echange, en objets de subsistence et de de´fense....
Le luxe est l’emploi d’un revenu au delàdune´cessaire. Un revenu considerable ne peut être depense´ qu’en superflu¨te´s.Ily a une liaison inse´parable entre la possession d’un revenu et l’emploi libre de ce revenu. La prodigalite´ est toujours blamable;25 nuisible à l’individu, elle l’est dans sa personne à l’Etat: le luxe ne l’est jamais. Confondre le luxe avec la prodigalite´, la depense dans les limites du revenu avec la de´pense au delà de ces limites, regarder avec envie toutes les conditions supe´rieures à la sienne, taxer de prodigalite´ dans les autres ce qui seroit prodigalite´ pour soi-même, se donner pour la regle de ce qu’on doit ou ne doit pas faire, c’est le procede´ de l’ascetisme et de l’antipathie qui aboutiroient dans leurs conse´quences à passer le niveau sur tous les rangs de la socie´te´età detruire la proprie´te´ et l’industrie....
iii. Une troisieme distinction, de grande importance, est celle entre valeur pour usage et valeur pour e´change....
iv. Une quatrieme distinction est celle entre valeur intrinseque et valeur conventionnelle: intrinseque, quand la valeur de la chose depend de sa nature: conventionnelle, quand la valeur de´pend d’une convention, soit tacite, soit expresse, à donner à la chose une valeur qu’elle n’a point par elle-même.
La monnoie me´tallique est du nombre des choses qui possedent une valeur intrinseque, parce que la matiere dont elle est compose´e, est e´minemment propre à divers usages.
Le papier-monnoie est le principal article dont la valeur soit de l’espece conventionnelle....
Mais quelle est la source de cette valeur conventionnelle? Estce la convention toute seule?... Non. Ce qui n’a point de valeur intrinseque ne sera jamais la base d’aucune valeur convention- nelle. On ne fait rien de rien. Ex nihilo nihil fit....
Si un fragment de papier trop petit pour avoir une valeur d’usage s’est trouve´ obtenir une grande valeur d’echange, c’est que ce papier a e´te´ conside´re´ comme une promesse faite au porteur de lui delivrer la somme promise en argent. Une longue expe´rience a confirme´ la foi de cette promesse: et le papier a e´te´rec¸u comme l’equivalent du me´tal.
Dans le cas de la Banque d’Angleterre nous avons vu un exemple singulier où le papier a conserve´ sa valeur lors qu’il avoit cesse´ d’avoir la faculte´ de mettre le porteur en possession de sa valeur me´tallique.... La liaison entre les deux valeurs etoitinterrompue. Dans cette conjoncture critique, une convention pour ainsi dire miraculeuse est venue lui donner un nouvel appui. Mais quelle etoit la base de cette convention? la persuasion que cette liaison, suspendue pour un temps, seroit bientôt re´tablie....
Le fait reduit à ses termes simples est donc que la valeur du26 nume´raire me´tallique, comme moyen d’echange, sa valeur conventionnelle, est fonde´e uniquement sur sa valeur usuelle, sur sa valeur intrinseque—et que la valeur du papier-monnoie, quoiqu’elle puisse se soutenir pour un temps par la seule force d’une convention, est fonde´e uniquement sur celle de la valeur me´tallique dont il renferme la promesse.
24. I like the distinction which Adam Smith makes between value in use and value in exchange. According to that opinion utility is not the measure of value.
25. Prodigality is positively injurious to a state as it diminishes the national capital and therefore its revenue and resources; A man who spends an ample revenue on objects of luxury is not a prodigal he does not diminish the resources of the state, but as far as he is concerned keeps them at a stationary point. The man who saves his income however ample and adds it to his capital increases the riches and resources of the country of which he is a citizen.
26. I much doubt whether this is the foundation of the value of the precious metals,—I doubt rather whether the assertion should not be somewhat qualified. If true whilst we were secure of the ability of the Bank to pay, paper money must retain its value,—but at the present moment we see the contrary to be the fact,—as with the fullest confidence in the stability of the issues of paper, that paper is at a considerable discount proceeding from excess alone.
de la richesse—ses sources.
Toute richesse...est le produit combine´ de la terre et du travail—c.a.d., du travail humain....
L’addition à la richesse par le moyen du travail est faite ou par addition àla quantite´ du travail dans un temps donne´, ou àl’effet du travail, au degre´ d’effet dont il est susceptible dans le même temps....
L’addition faite à la quantite´ du travail ou à l’effet du travail peut se rapporter au capital—à l’augmentation faite au capital ou à l’effet du capital—à l’emploi d’un plus grand capital ou àla meilleure direction du même capital.
Il est bon de montrer quelles sont les sources re´elles de la richesse pour faire voir de plus en plus que le nume´raire et par conse´quent l’augmentation du nume´raire n’est pas une de ces sources. C’est une confirmation de ce qui a e´te´ ci-dessus. [Dumont’s note: ‘Cela n’est pas clair. Je vais dans un pays pauvre, où il y a beaucoup de gens peu occupe´s—j’y porte une grande somme d’argent—je m’en sers à faire de´fricher un marais —à acheter du be´tail—à payer le travail de bcp d’ouvriers—le nume´raire n’est-il pas une des sources re´elles de la richesse? L’Ecosse n’a-t-elle pas change´ de face depuis que les Ecossois enrichis aux Indes y ont porte´ des capitaux pe´cuniaires. Il y a encore quelque mystere pour moi dans l’antipathie que l’auteur27 a prise contre le nume´raire.’]
De l’accroissement de richesse.
Le travail en lui-même est incapable de rien produire sans la terre. Il faut qu’il opere ou directement sur la terre ou sur quelque chose qui originairement ait du son existence à la terre.
Abstraction faite du travail, la richesse ne rec¸oit aucun accroissement d’un simple accroissement dans la quantite´ de terre. Cet28 accroissement de terre pourroit aller à l’infini sans produire aucun accroissement de richesse. En un mot la terre n’est source de richesse qu’à proportion du travail qu’on y applique. Sans cette proportion de travail, la possession de la terre ne pourroit contribuer à la richesse qu’autant qu’elle seroit transfe´re´e par maniere d’echange.
Cependant une nouvelle quantite´ (etendue) de terre pourroit devenir une source de richesse, sans augmentation de travail, si cette nouvelle quantite´ de terre à raison de sa fertilite´ naturelle ou du climat, ou de quelque autre circonstance, rendoit la même quantite´ de travail plus effective, ou en d’autres termes, donnoit plus de produit pour le même travail....
27. This objection does not appear well founded. No sum of money carried into Switzerland would enable the possessor to drain a marsh and render it productive. The money must first be exchanged with some other country for those commodities which would increase the capital and revenue of the country. The same observation is applicable to Scotland. It was not by money, but by capital that Scotland has been improved.
28. It appears to me that the possession of new Land would add to our sum of riches without additional labour, because the same labour employed on double the quantity of equally good land now in cultivation in England would produce a greater return. This opinion is founded on the decreasing power of the land to produce in proportion to the labour and capital employed on it. The sentiment expressed is in the main undoubtedly true,—but I think it requires some qualification.
—I see this is admitted in the next paragraph.
nume ´raire, ses diverses especes.
papier-monnoie, sa valeur.
L’assurance d’obtenir l’argent (le nume´raire) au moment de la demande remplit l’objet desire´ aussi bien que sa possession actuelle....
C’est sur ce fondement que les Banques ont e´te´ etablies: institution qui a e´te´ mieux entendue dans presque tous les pays29 commerc¸ants de l’Europe qu’en Angleterre. Ces banques supposent un depôt. L’argent y est rec¸u, non seulement compte´, mais scrupuleusement examine´. Le papier qui repose sur un nume´raire d’un bon titre doit etre plus estime´ que celui qui n’a d’autre base que la masse miscellane´e du nume´raire courant dans la circulation.
Dans les places où ces Banques sont etablies, la quantite´de papier qui represente l’argent depose´à la Banque, etant limite´30 par la quantite´ d’argent me´tallique repre´sente´e, se trouve susceptible d’une prime, laquelle prime varie selon la demande.
En Angleterre où la Banque n’est pas fonde´e sur un depôt, la certitude par rapport à la bonte´ du papier ne peut jamais être si entiere: cependant, deduction faite pour cette circonstance, la sûrete´ est assez grande pour donner lieu à l’existence d’une prime en faveur du papier, à raison de tous ses avantages.
Si cette prime n’a jamais existe´, cela ne vient pas d’un sentiment d’inse´curite´, mais d’une toute autre cause. C’est que la somme du papier-monnoie n’a jamais e´te´ limite´e comme elle l’est ne´cessairement31 dans les banques de depôt. Comme tout homme peut toujours se procurer contre de la monnoie me´tallique autant de papier-monnoie qu’il en demande et qu’il peut garantir, il ne peut en consequence exister aucune prime pour personne....
29. The Bank of England is certainly not quite so secure as a bank of deposit such as at Amsterdam and Hamburgh,— but is infinitely more useful in making the whole capital of a country available. Paper in England performs the office of the precious metals,—and the precious metals are exported for those commodities which can be usefully and advantageously employed. In Holland and Hamburgh the advantages of the Banks is 1o. in the use of paper instead of metals which has been admirably described by this author, and 2dly. in having a uniform measure of value subject to no debasement or deterioration.
30. It was well observed by Mr. to the bullion Comm∼ee that he considered the agio on Bank money not as a premm. for Bank money because that was invariable but as the measure of the value of the current money.
The nature of Bank money on the continent does not appear to me to be well understood by the author.
des degre ´s d’aptitude a une prompte circulation entre telle monnoie et telle autre.
Les circonstances dont depend la facilite´ comparative à circuler entre telle espece de nume´raire et telle autre peuvent se rapporter à 4 chefs.
1oLa petitesse de valeur, considerant à part la monnoie metallique et le papier monnoie.
2 La portabilite´.
3 La certitude par rapport à la bonte´, surtout dans le cas de papier monnoie: y compris la permanence de valeur des mate´riaux.
4 La promptitude de payement, dans le cas de papier monnoie.
1. De ces circonstances, celle qui exerce l’influence principale, c’est la petitesse de valeur....
Il semble donc que si l’on avoit besoin d’augmenter la rapidite´ de la circulation, et par consequent le pouvoir effectif de la masse de nume´raire d’un pays, il n’y auroit qu’à augmenter le nombre des pieces de petite valeur aux depends du nombre des pieces de plus grande valeur.
Mais cette operation n’auroit point l’effet desire´. [Dumont’s note: ‘pluribus omissis non intellectis’]...
La multiplication de la petite monnoie au delà de la proportion absolument requise pour le change (c.a.d. pour changer un shelling en demi-sous et une guine´e en shellings) seroit plutôt nuisible que favorable à la rapidite´ de la circulation, à raison de ce qu’elle est moins portative.
Aussi voit-on dans plusieurs pays que la monnoie me´tallique la plus pre´cieuse porte une prime dans l’echange contre la monnoie d’une espece plus pesante. En France, au moins autrefois,32 l’or en grande quantite´ avoit plus de valeur que son equivalent le´gal en argent. En Russie, l’argent gagne habituellement contre le cuivre qui etant le produit des mines du pays est plus abondant que les me´taux pre´cieux.
iv. Promptitude de payement: derniere circonstance qui influe sur l’aptitude d’un papier-monnoie à une prompte circulation.33 C’est par cette circonstance que la nature (l’effet—powers, properties) des papiers portant inte´rêt est plus ou moins affecte´e.
L’influence de cette cause n’est pas facile àde´mêler, par rapport aux prix, parce qu’elle est complique´e avec les autres causes mentionne´es ci-dessus et diversifie´e elle-même par un grand nombre de modifications. Dans le cas des lettres de change, la lenteur du payement, cause de retard dans la circulation, est combine´e avec les degre´s d’incertitude concernant la solvabilite´ des parties oblige´es au payement. Dans le cas des bills de l’Echiquier, le temps du payement quoiqu’eloigne´ en comparaison34 avec les lettres de Change est commune´ment à jour fixe. Dans le cas des bills de marine, heureusement hors d’usage aujourd’hui, l’incertitude par rapport au jour du payement les fit tomber dans cette de´pre´ciation qui suffiroit seule pour en retarder la circulation de manière à les rendre peu propres au service du Gouvernement.
Dans le cas des bills de l’Echiquier, le principal et l’inte´rêt sont paye´s ensemble. Dans le cas des billets de la Compagnie des Indes, quoique le payement de l’inte´rêt soit plus prompt et plus regulier que dans le cas des bills de l’Echiquier, cependant le payement du principal est refe´re´ non seulement à un temps eloigne´, mais à un temps incertain. C’est plutôt l’emprunteur qui peut exercer le droit de rembourser à son gre´ que le prêteur n’a celui de le forcer au payement.
Une autre circonstance de ces billets qui rend difficile de distinguer l’effet de la lenteur de payement sur leur circulation, c’est la grandeur des sommes: £100 au moins pour les billets des Indes: £500 et souvent £1000 pour ceux de l’Echiquier— cela suffiroit seul pour mettre cette espece de papier-monnoie hors de service dans les transactions communes des depenses.
Il ne faut pas croire toutefois que ces papiers n’exercent pas une influence indirecte sur la force totale du nume´raire de toute espece et par conse´quent sur l’ensemble des prix. Il y a beaucoup de transactions commerciales, entre les marchands en gros, où ces billets de £100, 500, et 1000 sont aussi applicables que les35 billets de banque ordinaire le sont dans le cours des affaires communes: et en particulier les bills de l’Echiquier entrent dans la composition de cette espece de monnoie que les banquiers gardent par devers eux comme un fond de reserve pour subvenir à quelque demande extraordinaire d’argent de la part de ceux qui ont coutume de deposer une somme entre leurs mains pour la tirer en de´tail. La regulation de ces Bills est si bien etablie par l’expe´rience d’un siecle que quoiqu’ils ne soient pas payables à vue, on est toujours sûr de trouver un marche´ prêt pour eux dans la metropole, entre les ne´gociants des premieres classes....
31. It is said that Bank paper cannot be sufficiently limited to be at a premm. because any man possessing guineas may buy notes of the Bank at par. That these notes should be at par is sufficient security to the public,—would they had continued so till this time.—But the author is mistaken in supposing that Bank money cannot be bought at the banks of deposit,—for the most trifling premm. 1 per mil I believe bank money may be bought with bullion at Hamburgh,—and bullion cannot be considered equally valuable with coin, weight and standard for weight and standard.
32. This may be accounted for from the relative value of the metals in the mints of France and Russia being incorrectly determined.
33. This does not appear to be necessary to a paper currency, witness the notes of the Bank of England for many years. They would even now preserve their value if they were not issued in excess, however distant might be the time of their final discharge.
34. Exchequer bills cannot be considered as paper money. They may be used as such on some occasions by Government but cease immediately to perform the functions of money. They can no more be considered as paper money than the funds. They never pass in payments from one individual to another. The possessor of an exchequer bill if he has a payment to make must first dispose of his bill in the money market for bank notes,—and if there were a scarcity of money in the market an issue of exchequer bills would rather aggravate than supply such distress.
The navy bills were formerly at a great discount which arose from their being injudiciously pressed on the market for sale, rather than to the want of punctuality in their payment as they bore an interest till the day of payment and no one had doubts of their security.—
India Bonds for the payment of which no time is fixed are generally at a premm. since a more judicious mode of sale has been adopted. And exchequer bills tho’ paying less than 5 pc. for money are commonly at a premm. of 5 or 6 shillings pc.t
35. This I am persuaded is a great mistake. Exchequer bills are never paid as money,—but are bought and held chiefly by bankers and monied men. No man becomes possessed of an exchequer bill without parting with an equal amount of money. If a contractor receives from Government a navy or ordnance bill he can do nothing with it till he has sold it in the market. Does not the whole transaction resolve itself into this? A has furnished government with stores for which government is enabled to pay by borrowing the money of B, which is effected by the sale of the debt by A to B.—They differ in no respect from the funds but by being less variable in price. The argument that a market is always to be found for them in the metropolis is equally true with respect to the funds. Money can be raised on the one with as much certainty as on the other.
des fonds de securite ´.
Toutes les especes de papier monnoie payables a vue exigent un fonds de se´curite´: une masse d’argent toujours prête à remplir les engagements du papier-monnoie....
Observons d’abord qu’on peut appliquer à l’Arithmetique du commerce de banque ce mot de Swift sur les impôts, Deux et deux ne font pas quatre. Si le montant du nume´raire me´tallique36 qui compose le fonds de securite´ est le tiers du montant du papiermonnoie, trois et trois de cette maniere ne seront pas e´gaux à six, mais seulement à cinq. [Dumont’s note: ‘non capio’.]
Fonds de securite´ de la banque d’Angleterre.
Le fonds de securite´ de la banque d’Angleterre est uniquement compose´deme´taux pre´cieux, partie sous la forme de nume´raire anglois, partie sous celle de lingot, ou d’argent monnoye´ des autres nations....
Aussi longtemps que la Banque peut s’assurer de tirer de la Monnoie une quantite´ suffisante d’espèces pour la demande, il est de son inte´rêt de garder l’or en lingot autant qu’elle peut. Pour chaque once d’or, au même titre que celui des guine´es, elle rec¸oit de la Monnoie le même poids, produisant en especes la valeur de £3: 17s: 10d½. Pour cette once d’or en lingot, le prix qu’elle donne au marchand est de £3: 17: 6d. Le profit qu’elle fait sur cette once, en l’envoyant à la Monnoie est de 4d½: un peu plus que 2 pour cent.... le profit qu’elle fait sur l’especemonnoie´e, tout mode´re´ qu’il est, est autant de gagne´ sans risque et sans peine, sur un capital qui ne leur rapporteroit rien. Il est vrai que si ce capital ne rapporte aucun inte´rêt, tant qu’il est stagnant, le papier qu’ils donnent en payement pour l’or, ne leur coûte non plus aucun inte´rêt. Ils en peuvent emettre sans crainte une quantite´ illimite´e contre un tel gage. Si le papier emis en conse´quence leur revient pour être e´change´ contre les especes, ils n’ont qu’à faire frapper une portion e´gale des lingots qu’ils37 ont achete´ avec ce papier: et à mesure qu’ils se defont de leurs especes, ils retirent la portion de papier qui etoit surabondante. Bien loin de perdre par cette ope´ration, elle constitue tout leur profit: car ce n’est qu’à proportion du papier qui leur rentre qu’ils font faire un nouveau monnoyage, et c’est à proportion du monnoyage qu’ils gagnent la difference entre le prix d’achat de l’or et le prix des guine´es qu’ils rec¸oivent: c.a.d. les 2 pour cent de profit....
Fonds de securite´ des banques (fragment).
Dans la proportion de l’edifice à la base, à mesure que la quantite´ de papier jette´e dans la circulation par chaque banquier sur la force d’une quantite´ donne´e de nume´raire, la somme totale du papier-monnoie et des moyens de circulation augmente.
Tout ce qui peut au jugement du banquier lui servir à obtenir du nume´raire en especes ou ce qui est rec¸u comme tel, sera pour lui un moyen de garder moins d’especes, ou d’emettre une masse proportionnelle de papier, toutes les fois qu’il le trouvera praticable et profitable.
De cette maniere le papier d’une banque (suppose´ bon) formera une base et même une base très commode, pour le papier d’une38 autre banque et re´ciproquement: A prenant le papier de B, B prenant le papier de A, et ainsi dans chaque cas l’edifice croît en hauteur à une etendue indefinie, la base restant toujours la même....
Fonds de securite´ des banques Provinciales.
[Dumont’s note: ‘Chap. omis, fort long ds les Mss.—je n’ai pas senti l’importance de traiter à fond ce sujet....’]
Le fonds de securite´ des banques provinciales pour l’emission de leur papier-monnoie, est d’une espece toute differente.
On peut le diviser en deux portions, le fonds de securite´ extraordinaire comme on peut l’appeller et le fonds de securite´ ordinaire.
Chaque banque provinciale entretient une correspondance suivie avec une des banques de la Metropole: cette liaison à plusieurs egards a l’effet d’une association. Par le fonds de securite´ extraordinaire d’une banque provinciale, j’entends les secours de toute espece qu’elle peut recevoir et qu’elle rec¸oit de cette banque associe´e.
Par le fonds de securite´ ordinaire, j’entends la moyenne du surplus en nume´raire qu’elle garde habituellement dans ses coffres, au delà de ce qu’elle est appelle´e à payer chaque jour.
On comprend que ce que j’ai appelle´ le fonds extraordinaire sera de la même nature que ce qui compose le fonds de securite´ du banquier de Londres....
Des bills de l’Echiquier, des billets des Indes, soit par leur39 grandeur, soit par les variations de valeur auxquels ils sont sujets, ne seroient point propres à former le fonds de securite´ de ces banques provinciales.
Ce qui compose ce fonds, c’est d’abord une certaine quantite´ de nume´raire effectif—des billets de la banque d’Angleterre depuis qu’on en a fait d’une et de deux livres St—et même du papier des banques rivales....
36. I do not understand this passage.
37. This trade of buying gold at £3. 17. 6—and procuring it to be coined would be very unprofitable to the bank, because as they would purchase the bullion with paper they would cause an excess which would infallibly be returned to them for specie which they must provide immediately,—whereas they would not obtain the specie for their bullion sent to the mint for some weeks amounting to a loss of interest considerably more than the 4d.½ per oz.
The effects of an excessive issue of paper I have not yet seen explained by this author.
4d.½ is not 2 pc.t on £3. 17. 10½ but less than ½ pc.t
38. We are to suppose the author speaking of a paper convertible at the will of the holder. If so his system is altogether erroneous. All the banks together can by no effort keep permanently more than a given sum in circulation.
39. It has lately appeared in evidence before the bullion Committee that the Country Banks keep in London deposits of Exchequer bills, India Bonds &ca., for which they can speedily obtain Bank of England notes when necessary. It is also proved that their payments in return for the notes issued by themselves are frequently if not generally made by drafts on their London Agents. Country notes are seldom exchanged but for the purpose of obtaining London currency and this mode is convenient to both parties. To the country banker as it prevents the necessity of keeping funds to any great amount unemployed.—To the holder of the country notes as they are chiefly exchanged for the purpose of making payments in London, it saves the risk which would attend sending the Bank notes to London.
The Bank of England deposits consist of bills of exchange government securities, besides coin and bullion. Those of the country Banks of government securities, bills of exchange coin and bank of England notes.
As all the banks together whilst they are bound to pay on demand in specie can only maintain a given amount of notes in circulation prices cannot be affected by any efforts of Banks.
De La Hausse Des Prix Et Des Effets Du Papier-Monnoye.
L’objet de cet essai est la partie permanente de l’augmentation qui s’est faite depuis quelques anne´es relativement aux prix: par où je n’entends pas tous les prix sans distinction, mais seulement ceux par lesquels la valeur re´elle des revenus a e´te´ affecte´e....
Les prix par lesquels la valeur du revenu est affecte´e ne sont pas les prix de tous les articles, mais de ceux qui servent àla consommation journaliere, les aliments, les vêtements, les combustibles &c.
Les articles par le prix desquels la valeur du revenu n’est pas affecte´e ou du moins pas imme´diatement affecte´e sont les sources du revenu de toutes sortes, propriete´s territoriales, maisons, mines, contrats, hypotheques, fonds publics, &c.
Que le prix de ces articles augmente ou diminue, la valeur d’un revenu n’en est pas affecte´e: si j’ai une annuite´ de £100, sa valeur est affecte´e par l’augmentation ou la diminution des denre´es, mais aussi longtemps que je ne suis pas appelle´àla vendre, la valeur du revenu n’est point augmente´e ou diminue´e par une augmentation ou une diminution dans le nombre des anne´es d’achat que j’en recevrois si j’avois à la vendre.
Le prix d’une source de revenu est affecte´ par la même cause que la valeur du revenu lui-même, savoir, la quantite´ de nume´raire:1 mais elle est de plus affecte´e par une autre circonstance, savoir, la proportion entre la valeur de la richesse presente et celle de la richesse future....
1. If money be depreciated, the value of an annuity payable in money must also be diminished. What other variation the author means is not clearly expressed.
In this chapter the author does not clearly express to us what he means by money or circulating medium. Does he include checks on Bankers, Exchequer bills, India Bonds as well as Bank notes and metallic money. I consider the latter (Bank notes and metallic money) only, as circulating medium and I should think the mass of these changed hands much oftener than the author has supposed.
Par le premier coût (prime cost) ou prime-coût pe´cuniaire d’une production j’entends la somme d’argent qui a e´te´ employe´e en differents prix, pour l’amener à son etat actuel, renfermant les prix des mate´riaux dont l’article est compose´—celui des matieres consomme´es pour le travail, du combustible par exemple—celui du travail—celui qui a e´te´ paye´ pour l’usage de la terre, ou des maisons, des ustensiles, des outils, de tous les instruments en un mot qui ont servi à la faire ou à la transporter, ou à la conserver....
Comme le premier coût en argent donne la somme des prix elementaires qu’on ne peut parvenir à connoȸtre separement avec2 certitude, il represente de même assez exactement la somme des portions de travail qui ont e´te´ employe´es pour amener l’article à son e´tat actuel.
2. Provided no alteration has taken place in the value of money.
des causes de hausse et de baisse par rapport aux prix.
En conside´rant les causes de la hausse et de la baisse des prix, il est essentiel de commencer par faire une distinction entre les causes imme´diates et les causes plus ou moins eloigne´es: autrement des causes d’une tendance contraire seront range´es sur la même ligne, et l’on ne parviendra point à se faire des ide´es claires et nettes.
Je m’explique—Parmi les circonstances qui produisent une hausse en premiere instance, il en est plusieurs qui produisent une baisse en seconde instance. Un flux de nouveau nume´raire3 dans le marche´ rendra toutes les marchandises proportionnellement plus cheres: mais cette augmentation de prix, fournissant des moyens et des encouragements pour la production et l’introduction d’une extra-quantite´ de ces marchandises, a une tendance à les rendre proportionnellement moins cheres, dès que cette cause aura eu le temps d’operer.
Les causes qui influent sur la hausse des prix peuvent se distinguer en deux classes 1o celles qui affectent la masse du4 nume´raire 2o celles qui affectent la masse des objets venaux.
Par les causes qui affectent la masse du nume´raire, j’entends toutes celles qui produisent une augmentation dans le total des sommes pe´cuniaires depense´es pendant l’anne´e en forme de revenu (on the score of revenue).
Ce total de depense peut être augmente´ de deux manieres 1o par une augmentation5 de moyens pe´cuniaires, la proportion entre la recette et la de´pense restant la même 2o par une augmentation dans la depense seule, le revenu restant sur le même pie´ qu’auparavant.
Cet accroissement de depense sans accroissement de revenu n’est point une chose conforme aux dispositions habituelles des hommes: cela ne peut avoir lieu dans une Communaute´ que par des circonstances extraordinaires et temporaires, telles qu’un e´tat de disette ou de guerre: la disette affectant principalement le prix des denre´es: la guerre, inde´pendamment des de´gâts locaux, affectant le prix des objets dont elle augmente la consommation, et de ceux dont elle rend l’importation plus dispendieuse.
Ces deux causes sont suffisantes pour operer, chacune dans la6 sphere de son action, une hausse des prix, et même une hausse considerable, sans qu’il y ait aucune addition faite à la masse du nume´raire.
Ces deux cas excepte´s, les prix ne peuvent s’elever qu’en raison d’une augmentation pe´cuniaire dans la masse du revenu7 national, c’est à dire, dans le total des revenus individuels: et cette augmentation ne peut avoir lieu que par l’addition d’une nouvelle quantite´ d’argent, ou par une plus grande rapidite´ dans la circulation.
En effet, le proprietaire ne peut faire une addition habituelle à sa depense de consommation qu’autant que son fermier lui paye une rente plus considerable: le fermier ne peut faire cette addition à la rente qu’autant que lui-même rec¸oit une plus grande somme des produits de sa ferme; et il ne peut recevoir cette plus grande somme habituelle qu’autant qu’il augmente la quantite´ de ces produits ou le prix qu’il en obtient: or il ne peut augmenter la quantite´ de ces produits que par une addition faite à la masse8 de son capital productif; et le prix ne peut recevoir une addition habituelle à moins qu’il n’y ait eu une augmentation dans la quantite´ d’argent employe´e à ce genre de consommation par ses acheteurs: ce qui suppose de la part des acheteurs eux-mêmes un accroissement total dans la masse de leurs revenus.
Il s’ensuit donc qu’à prendre le tout ensemble nous ne devons chercher la cause de l’augmentation permanente des prix que9 dans l’augmentation de la force effective, c.à.d. la quantite´etla celerite´ de la masse de l’argent.
Ainsi la cause immediate de la hausse des prix est l’augmentation de la masse d’argent employe´e dans la depense de consommation: la cause immediate de cette augmentation est dans l’accroissement de la somme totale employe´e en forme de capital9½ productif. Mais de cette même cause il resulte un accroissement proportionnel dans la quantite´ des marchandises ve´nales. Si ces deux accroissements se faisoient dans le même temps, s’ils etoient non seulement proportionnels mais e´gaux, il est evident que les prix resteroient toujours les mêmes. Le simple fait de la hausse des prix est une preuve, et une preuve concluante, que l’accroissement des marchandises ve´nales ne marche point du même pas que l’accroissement de la force effective de la masse d’argent, et ce même fait est l’indice de la difference entre ces deux accroissements.
Si cette conclusion paroit vraie d’après une vue generale du sujet, elle le paroit plus encore quand on l’examine en de´tail. Avant qu’un article de marchandise soit fini et prêt àêtre achete´ par un consommateur, il a passe´ par le travail d’un grand nombre10 de mains, entre lesquelles le nouveau capital a e´te´ partage´: mais comme l’argent est paye´ aux ouvriers de semaine en semaine ou de jour en jour, et employe´ par eux aussitôt que rec¸u pour la depense de consommation, l’addition qui en resulte à la masse d’argent contribue imme´diatement à hausser les prix, et produit cette hausse longtemps avant qu’elle ait pu produire l’effet oppose´ d’augmenter la quantite´ des marchandises ve´nales, qui doit amener la baisse. L’intervalle qui s’ecoule entre la production de ces deux effets oppose´s differe beaucoup selon la diversite´ des articles: mais il est clair que l’effet augmentatif par rapport aux prix precede toujours l’effet diminutif et il est prouve´ par le dernier re´sultat qu’il le surpasse....
3. Why should the mere increase of money have any other effect than to lower its value? How would it cause any increase in the production of commodities?
4. This is true taking all commodities together,—but fashion or other causes may create an increased demand for one article and consequently the demand for some one or more of others must diminish. Will not this operate on prices?
The author evidently means all commodities together or the mass of prices.
5. Is not this assuming that what is not spent is hoarded. The revenue is in all cases spent, but in one case the objects on which it is expended are consumed, and nothing reproduced in the other those objects form a new capital tending to increased production.
6. If any rise in the price of commodities is caused in the way here supposed it must be by diminishing the amount of commodities, which will make the money which circulates them more relatively abundant. If the commodities remained the same and their price was increased, more money would be absolutely necessary to circulate them. But if it is the mass of prices of which the author speaks, he is mistaken because what one commodity rose in price another would fall.
7. These arguments are all founded on the supposition of the country to which they are applied being insulated from all others. If not it is evident that the rapidity of the circulation would cause an exportation of money, and would not therefore raise prices at home.
8. If by increase of capital he could increase his productions the price of them or of some other commodities must fall unless the money of the country has been also increased.
9. In this conclusion I perfectly agree if the author means the mass of prices, but a hundred articles might have risen, whilst another hundred might have fallen in consequence of increased or decreased demand, increased or decreased knowledge in the best means of producing them. Nay the mass of prices might remain the same tho’ each individual article had risen in consequence of taxation.
[9½.] Money cannot call forth goods,—but goods can call forth money.
The revenue of nations divided in two portions that expended on consumable commodities, and that saved for future capital a source of great error as their effects on prices the same.
10. Here again it is supposed that the augmentation of money precedes the augmentation of goods. I am of opinion however that it would seldom cause any augmentation of goods, and if it did it would be before prices had found their new level. It would be effected by turning a part of that fund destined for the wages of labour for a short time into capital.
montant de la hausse des prix.
Un nouveau nume´raire peut (comme nous l’avons de´jàvû) être introduit par une voie commerciale ou par une voie non commerciale.
Celui qui est introduit par une voie non commerciale n’ajoute rien à la masse de la richesse: son seul effet est d’ajouter àla masse des prix. (c.a.d. des prix affectant le revenu) [Dumont’s note: ‘il est dit ailleurs qu’il ajoute à la richesse, par le profit des marchands &c.’]
Celui qui est introduit par une voie commerciale augmente de tout son montant la masse des prix dans l’anne´e, comme dans le premier cas: mais il faut deduire de cette augmentation des11 prix une somme proportionnelle à l’addition qu’il fait faire dans la masse des choses venales par laquelle les prix sont affecte´s.
L’addition faite au total des prix par une introduction de nouveau nume´raire par une voie non commerciale est donc sans deduction, comme la quantite´ de ce nouveau nume´raire est au montant de la masse originaire dans laquelle il est introduit. Si par exemple le nouveau fonds est un du fonds ancien l’addition faite au prix sera comme 10 + 1 à 10.
L’addition faite au total des prix par une quantite´ de nouveau nume´raire introduit par une voie commerciale ne sera pas simplement comme le montant du nouveau fonds au fonds ancien, mais comme ce montant moins la partie qui a e´te´ employe´e à constituer les prix des nouveaux articles venaux produits dans le même temps par l’emploi productif de ce nouveau nume´raire.
Si l’addition faite à la masse des choses venales par l’emploi12 productif de ce nouveau capital, est suppose´e egale au profit ordinaire des capitaux, c.à.d. à15pr cent,—c’est donc 15 pr cent du montant de ce nouveau capital qu’il faut de´duire du montant de ce qui auroit e´te´ ajoute´à la masse des prix par l’introduction du nouveau capital.
Mais ce 15 pr cent ne doit être compte´ que sur le premier emploi du nouveau capital: car après son premier deboursement13 qui va tout entier à la production, le nouveau fonds se partagera entre la depense productive et consommatrice, dans la proportion de ces deux depenses l’une par rapport à l’autre. [Dumont’s note: ‘mss fort obscur’.]
Si donc la proportion entre la quantite´ de nume´raire et la quantite´ de revenu est comme 1 à 3, ou en d’autres termes, s’il falloit pour constituer tout le revenu que chaque piece d’argent passât en trois differentes mains dans le cours de l’anne´e,—ce n’est pas 15 pr cent qu’il faudroit deduire de la masse du nouveau fonds mais seulement 5 pr cent. [Dumont’s note: ‘He´breu’.]
Si le nouveau fonds est comme du fonds originaire, le nouveau total des prix sera non comme 10 + 1 − 1,5 = 10,85 à 10, [corrected by Ricardo: ‘10 + 1 − ·15 = 10,85’] mais comme 10 + 1 − 0,5 = 10,95 à 10.
La deduction ainsi faite la premiere anne´e peut être considere´e comme devant avoir lieu dans toutes les anne´es suivantes, car aussi longtemps que le fonds additionnel est employe´delamême maniere, il produit le même profit.
Si le total de l’argent etoit egal à la masse totale du revenu, la depre´ciation de l’argent par une addition de nouveau nume´raire seroit simplement comme l’argent ajoute´. Cette depre´ciation continueroit toujours tant qu’elle ne seroit pas compense´e par une addition pour un montant e´gal à la masse des choses venales.
Mais si le total de l’argent, au lieu d’être egal au total du revenu, n’en etoit qu’un tiers, alors chaque £1 ajoute´e à la masse du nume´raire produiroit une hausse des prix de trois fois son montant: c.a.d. de £3 par anne´e: tant qu’il n’y auroit pas une compensation proportionnelle à la masse des choses venales. &c. &c. &c. [Dumont’s note: ‘je n’y comprends plus rien du tout Voyez la masse de papiers Amount Profit Loss’.]
Cela etant ainsi, pour chaque million de nouveau14 nume´raire ainsi introduit, une taxe annuelle de trois millions est impose´e.
Mais quoiqu’il y ait une taxe impose´e au montant de trois millions, il ne faut pas croire que toute la Communaute´ souffrit une perte au montant de cette somme. Elle n’en est pas plus riche pour l’introduction de ce nouvel argent, mais elle n’en est pas plus pauvre. L’effet de l’ope´ration est une revolution dans la proprie´te´, mais non pas une destruction de proprie´te´. Pour la Communaute´ prise ensemble, il n’y a pas plus de perte que si chaque anne´e trois millions etoient leve´s en taxes et ajoute´s à la liste des pensions....
11. An increased capital will maintain a greater amount of circulating medium without causing any alteration in its value. But thro’ commercial channels no money can be introduced into a country which shall affect prices, unless the mass of gold and silver have not only been increased in proportion to the increased demand, but much above it. It can be produced only by the discovery of new mines or the improvement in the mode of working the old. The question of the effect of machinery on prices is not once mentioned.
12. & 13. This calculation does not appear to me correct, if correct it is very obscure. If 15 pc.t be added to the amount of goods already in existence, there will be required 15 pc.t on the amount of money before employed to keep prices as heretofore and this is in fact what this calculation asserts, but it is necessary to the authors conclusions that we should allow that an increase of money will call forth an additional amount of commodities,—but I do not see on what principle such a consequence can be expected.
Many pages appear to me very difficult to comprehend. The author in some places speaks of money as capital calling forth the production of commodities,—and in others as purely circulating medium raising prices in proportion to its abundance.
14. In as much as the million could not be imported without a corresponding exportation of commodities, the country importing money would lose in consequence of the increased fertility of the mine.—This again would be a tax to that amount on one country in favor of another. It is precisely of the same nature though as that which would attend any improvement in a manufacture of England for example which should lower its value. In consequence of such decreased value a greater quantity would be imported into other countries. If the million had been at once introduced into England for example.
If in a foreign country new means of improving the production of commodities be discovered it will be attended with real advantage to all countries which consume that commodity.—If the article were french cambrics for example England would import the quantity of cambrics she required at a less sacrifice of the produce of her own industry:—but when gold and silver are the commodities that become cheap in consequence of improved means of working the mine or the discovery of new mines no such advantage will accrue to England because the quantity of money she requires is not a fixed quantity but depends altogether on its value.
prix—mesure du nume ´raire.
En prenant l’ensemble de tous les prix de deux anne´es, si les prix de la seconde anne´e sont plus grands que ceux de la premiere,15 il faut que la quantite´ d’argent donne´ ou promis ait e´te´ plus grand la seconde anne´e que la premiere.
15. Or the quantity of goods less.
exposition mathematique de la hausse des prix.
Si la masse du pouvoir pe´cuniaire a augmente´ d’un 40eme et la masse des choses venales vendues a augmente´ d’un 80eme,ilya eu accroissement d’argent et accroissement de richesse, en même temps—ce qui est le cours naturel des choses.
Quelque ait e´te´ l’accroissement de richesse, nous ne devons pas l’attribuer tout entier à l’accroissement du nume´raire: sans accroissement d’argent, il y auroit toujours eu quelque accroissement de richesse. Dans les temps où le cre´dit pe´cuniaire etoit16 inconnu, et où le nume´raire a rec¸u très peu d’accroissement, la richesse re´elle et la population ont avance´ ensemble d’un pas assez rapide....
16. Is it not to be doubted whether the augmentation of money in any way accelerates the prosperity of a country, for the reasons I have given I think it retards it.
effets de la guerre sur la baisse et la hausse des prix.
Nous avons dit que la guerre haussoit le prix des articles dont elle augmentoit la consommation et de ceux dont elle rendoit l’importation plus coûteuse.—Nous allons voir que la guerre a un effet plus general pour produire une baisse dans l’ensemble des prix.
Dans la situation de la Grande Bretagne, la guerre occasionne une addition continuelle tant qu’elle dure à la masse des annuite´s du gouvernement (ce qu’on appelle ordinairement mais improprement, les fonds publics). Cette addition ne peut se faire que par une soustraction d’une partie proportionnelle du capital employe´ dans les entreprises productives, les manufactures, les ame´liorations des terres, &c. Or cet emploi du capital dans les entreprises productives, tendant plus comme on l’a vu ci-dessus à augmenter17 les prix en premiere instance qu’à les reduire en dernier re´sultat par l’augmentation des marchandises ve´nales, il s’ensuit que tout ce qui diminue ce capital productif a une tendance à faire baisser les prix. L’effet de la guerre sur les prix, au moins sous ce rapport,- n’est donc pas, comme on le croit generalement, de les hausser, mais plutôt de les reduire....
Les maux de la guerre sont si nombreux, si varie´s et si grands qu’il y doit se former naturellement une disposition à lui attribuer tous les inconve´nients qui peuvent se faire sentir pendant sa dure´e, au moins tous ceux qu’on peut lui attribuer sans tomber dans une absurdite´ palpable. Mais quels que soient les maux qui en re´sultent, elle ne peut pas produire en même temps des effets18 oppose´s et incompatibles—et des effets, tels que la hausse des prix et la diminution de la richesse, sont, dans un pays tel que l’Angleterre, oppose´s et incompatibles.
Diminution de richesse est un mal—hausse des prix est un autre mal—mais ces maux sont incompatibles.
La hausse des prix est un accompagnement inse´parable de la19 prosperite´: mais la guerre ne peut pas produire deux effets oppose´s entr’eux, et si elle arrête le progrès de la prosperite´, elle doit tout au moins ralentir la hausse des prix....
Dans le système des emprunts et du fonds d’amortissement, la depense de la guerre peut se distinguer en trois branches 1o le deboursement de l’argent leve´ par la vente des annuite´s du gouvernement: depense defraye´e par les individus qui avancent l’argent à ces conditions 2 la depense qui consiste dans le payement annuel de ces annu¨te´s possede´es par les acheteurs, depense defraye´e par des taxes 3o la depense applique´e à la redemption de ces annu¨te´s, depense defraye´e par la continuation des mêmes taxes.20
Cette soustraction des capitaux productifs, occasionne´e par la guerre, et leur application à des emplois improductifs (mais necessaires pour la protection du pays) est l’effet principal à conside´rer sous le rapport de la richesse et des prix. Le montant des annuite´s, etant leve´ par des taxes, est autant de retranche´ des revenus de toutes les classes de la Communaute´ prises ensemble: mais c’est autant d’ajoute´ aux revenus d’une classe particuliere de la même21 Communaute´, la classe des annu¨taires ou des proprie´taires de fonds.
La guerre a une influence qu’on ne niera pas sur la reduction des prix de ce que j’ai appelle´ des sources de revenu. L’effet d’une addition à la masse des annuïte´s du gouvernement est de baisser les prix non seulement de ces annuïte´s, mais encore celui des fonds de la compagnie des Indes, celui des maisons et des terres. [Dumont’s note: ‘omissis non intellectis (in the article War)’.]
17. I cannot comprehend how the increase of productions can cause commodities to rise in price, without any increase in the amount of money. War it would seem to me had rather the opposite tendency than what is here supposed, but the most correct opinion I think is that it has no effect on prices but thro’ means of taxation.
18. What is there incompatible in a rise of prices and a diminution of wealth, if prices are regulated solely by the relative proportion of money. In a country insulated from all others such an effect would inevitably take place.
19. Is not this a very faulty opinion?
20. Not by a continuance of the same taxes but by an addition to them.
21. This does not appear clear to me. The tax for annuities is so much taken from the collective income of the nation, but it is not added to the revenue of a particular class of the same community. The capital which yielded me a revenue is annihilated by being lent to Government consequently the revenue which it produced is also lost, and tho’ I may receive from the community the same income which I before enjoyed less my share of the tax,—to the community at large there is a loss to the amount of all that I receive, with my share of the tax added to it.
The effects of scarcity will be to raise prices, but whilst the society does not expend more than its whole revenue it will divert a portion of money from one employment rather than another. If my revenue amounts to £1000-£800- of which I spent in my family and 200 on those raw materials which are imported from abroad it is evident that if I am constrained by scarcity to spend 200 more on consumable commodities some one else must go without those commodities. If each member of the community consumed the same as before there could be no scarcity because there would be the same consumption. I say this would be the case unless the 200 which I formerly employed on raw materials were now used in procuring from abroad an additional supply of consumable articles. The same effects would follow tho’ I spent 1200 and were to encroach on my capital.
accroissement des prix par disette.
La disette accroit le montant total des prix pour un certain temps sans qu’il y ait aucun accroissement dans la masse du numeraire.
Pour entendre comment cela se fait, il faut commencer par distinguer l’accroissement dans l’ensemble total des prix (des prix qui affectent le revenu) et l’accroissement dans tel ou tel prix particulier.
Un accroissement dans l’ensemble total des prix ne peut être produit, d’une maniere permanente, par aucune autre cause que par un accroissement de nume´raire au delà de l’accroissement dans la masse des choses ve´nales.
Un accroissement temporaire dans l’ensemble total des prix peut resulter des saisons defavorables, dans lesquelles les produits22 agriculturaux etant extraordinairement petits, les prix requis pour leur achat sont extraordinairement hauts: d’où il resulte que le total du nume´raire employe´à l’achat de ces produits augmente beaucoup proportionnellement au total du nume´raire employe´à constituer les prix de tous les autres articles.
22. Is not the mass of prices the same after scarcity as before. May we not as before put the mass of commodities of all sorts on one side of the line,—and the amount of money multiplied by the rapidity of its circulation on the other. Is not this in all cases the regulator of prices?
causes d’une tendance ambigue par rapport a la hausse des prix.
I. Accroissement de frugalite´ nationale....
Supposez un accroissement dans les habitudes de frugalite´....
Pour observer les effets de cette habitude dans une Communaute´, voyons ce qui arriveroit dans le cas particulier d’un individu. Suivons les effets d’une guine´e qu’il avoit coutume de debourser en de´pense de consommation et qu’il applique maintenant àun emploi productif.
1. Il en fait lui-même l’emploi d’une maniere productive: par exemple, en payant à des ouvriers une heure de travail de plus tous les jours de la semaine.—Supposons qu’ils depensent en consommation ce surplus de gain à mesure qu’ils le rec¸oivent, et dans le même temps qu’il l’auroit fait lui-même.
Dans cette supposition l’ensemble des prix ne sera point change´: mais ce qui peut arriver, c’est un changement dans le prix de certains articles: le maȸtre eut depense´ la guine´e en vin ou en volaille; et auroit contribue´ pro tanto à elever ou à soutenir le prix de ces denre´es: les ouvriers la de´penseront en viande de boucherie ou en biere, et il en resultera le même effet sur le prix de ces deux articles.
Mais d’un autre côte´ la difference sur l’ensemble des prix sera très sensible: le maȸtre en bûvant son vin n’auroit rien produit, n’auroit contribue´ en rien à l’augmentation des articles ve´naux: les ouvriers en bûvant leur biere, ont produit une addition àla masse des choses ve´nales, addition qui n’eut point existe´si23 l’argent en question n’eut pas e´te´rec¸u et depense´ par eux.
Si le produit de leur travail se trouvoit prêt àêtre vendu au moment même où ils ont depense´ la guine´e, il se trouveroit qu’il existe dans la Communaute´ pour une valeur au moins d’une guine´e de plus de marchandise ve´nale: ce qui reduiroit pro tanto le prix de cette marchandise.
Il est vrai que cette supposition est presque ide´ale....
2. Supposons un second cas: celui où la guine´e e´conomise´e est prête´e à quelque individu qui l’emprunte pour l’employer dans une depense productive.
Si l’emploi de cette guine´e par l’emprunteur coïncide pour le temps, c’est à dire, se fait aussi promptement que dans le cas que nous venons de supposer, l’effet sur les prix sera exactement le même. Si l’emprunteur, comme c’est le cas le plus ordinaire, est oblige´...d’attendre..., ces de´lais occasionnent un retard dans l’emploi de l’argent, une diminution temporaire de sa force effective.
3. Troisieme cas. Supposons que la guine´e soit prête´e à quelque individu qui l’emprunte pour une depense de consommation.
Le re´sultat de cette recherche est curieux, instructif et digne d’attention. Dans les deux cas ci-dessus mentionne´s, la masse des choses venales avoit rec¸u une augmentation manifeste, laquelle devoit au moins en premiere instance produire une re´duction des prix. Dans ce troisieme cas, il semble au premier coup d’il qu’il n’y ait rien de tel, mais en examinant la supposition de plus près, on s’apperc¸oit que c’est une me´prise.
Pour placer l’erreur dans son jour le plus favorable, supposons que cette depense de consummation soit du genre le plus inutile, que ce soit celle d’un prodigue qui employant son capital en guise23[*] de revenu, depense ainsi sa derniere guine´e.—La somme d’argent qui dans une Communaute´ donne´e, se depense annuellement en prodigalite´, compare´e à celle qui s’y depense d’une maniere profitable, est une certaine proportion fixe, toujours très infe´rieure, et qui n’est point augmente´e par l’accident d’une guine´e employe´e à cet usage en preference à telle autre. Ce qui est emprunte´ d’un individu pour cet objet n’est point emprunte´ d’un autre. Ainsi cette guine´e d’epargne, prête´e à un prodigue et employe´e en prodigalite´, laisse une autre guine´e libre, et disponible pour le service productif.
4. En quatrieme lieu, supposons la guine´e envoye´e par son proprietaire à un banquier pour quelque usage futur ou pour servir à l’achat de quelque source de revenu.
Dans cette supposition, l’effet de l’epargne peut paroȸtre aussi avantageux que dans le premier cas ou au moins dans le second: En y regardant de plus près, on trouvera que son effet pour ajouter à la masse des choses venales, n’est pas tout à fait aussi grand. Il sera sujet à deux diminutions, l’une en fait de quantite´, l’autre en fait de vȸtesse.
1oEn fait de quantite´. Dans le deux premiers cas, la guine´e entiere a e´te´ applique´e à un emploi productif. Dans le cas où elle est depose´e chez le banquier, ce n’est qu’une partie de la24 guine´e qui sert à cet emploi. Le banquier ne peut pas disposer avec les emprunteurs de tout ce qu’il rec¸oit de la part des de´positeurs: il peut disposer tout au plus des deux tiers: il est oblige´ de tenir l’autre tiers en reserve comme fonds de securite´ pour faire face aux demandes journalieres de ceux qui ont depose´ leur argent chez lui.
2oEn fait de vȸtesse... il peut y avoir un intervalle sujet à varier par mille causes depuis le moment où la guine´e est depose´e chez le banquier, et celui où elle passe de ses mains dans celles d’un emprunteur qui l’employe en depense productive.
5. Enfin supposons que la guine´e, au lieu d’être mise en circulation, soit pour un temps inde´fini mise et tenue en caisse....L’effet de l’argent garde´ en caisse, par comparaison avec un emploi productif, est de tenir les prix plus bas....
II. Accroissement de la masse des produits domestiques qui n’entrent pas dans le commerce dans sa proportion avec la masse des produits achete´s et vendus....
III. De´croissement de la masse des produits domestiques qui n’entrent pas dans le commerce dans sa proportion avec la masse des articles achete´s et vendus....
IV. Accroissement dans la proportion des achats faits par e´change sur celle des achats faits par argent....
V. Accroissement d’articles venaux, affectant le montant du revenu.
Je donne pour exemple de ce genre d’accroissement les produits croissants d’une manufacture, et du sol.
Entant qu’un accroissement de ce genre a pour cause imme´diate l’emploi d’un plus grand capital en depense productive, l’effet sur cette classe de prix est de´jà connu. Quoiqu’il en resulte une addition à la quantite´ des articles venaux, cette addition n’est pas seulement accompagne´e mais pre´ce´de´e d’une addition correspondente25 dans la quantite´ du nume´raire, et même d’une addition plus qu’equivalente qui ne peut manquer de produire une hausse de prix. C’est dans le fait un accroissement dans la quantite´ d’argent deguise´e sous l’apparence contraire et sous l’appellation d’un accroissement dans la quantite´ des articles venaux. [Dumont’s note: ‘Je ne comprends pas’]...
VI. Requisitions ou taxes en nature....
VII. Argent force´....
23. Will not money increase in the same proportion?
23[*]. I can see no difference whether the owner of a guinea spends it himself on wine or in any other useless manner, or whether it be so spent by a prodigal to whom he may have unsuspectingly lent it.
24. It is a very doubtful point whether Banks keep a certain proportion of deposits. If their circulation be kept within due bounds their deposits need be very small,—on the contrary if the circulation be extensive they may be required to keep a large proportion.
25. How uniformly is the principle of the augmentation of money preceding the augmentation of commodities supported.
propositions sur la hausse des prix.
1. Position. Dans le cours du regne actuel, il y a eu une augmentation considerable de prix—augmentation dont la marche ae´te´ graduelle, quoiqu’acce´le´re´e dans les dernieres anne´es.
2. Position. L’augmentation dont il s’agit ici est en sus de ce qui peut avoir e´te´ produit en certaines anne´es par des causes occasionnelles, telles que les mauvaises saisons.
Obs. Dans l’estimation qui sera donne´e ci-après, on aura soin de deduire de l’augmentation ce qui paroit avoir e´te´lere´sultat de ces causes variables.
Sans une augmentation dans la quantite´re´lative de l’argent ou la vitesse de la circulation, aucune disette de grains ou d’autres denre´es ne pourroit produire une hausse permanente dans l’ensemble des prix. Toutes les extra-sommes qui ont e´te´ employe´es à l’achat des articles devenus plus chers, doivent avoir e´te´ deduites soit des achats qui auroient e´te´ faits pour d’autres consommations, soit des divers emplois productifs qu’on eut fait avec les economies annuelles sur le revenu. S’il n’y a point eu de de´croissement permanent dans la production des divers articles ve´naux pour lesquels l’argent est ne´cessaire, il ne peut point y avoir eu d’accroissement permanent de prix, par où j’entends les26 prix de toutes les marchandises venales dans leur ensemble, sans un accroissement correspondent dans la quantite´ de l’argent. Considerant le tout ensemble, on ne peut pas avoir donne´ plus d’argent pour les objets à vendre à moins qu’il n’y ait eu plus d’argent à donner.
iii.Position. Durant la même periode, il y a eu une augmentation considerable dans la quantite´ de papier-monnoie en circulation....
iv.Position. Il y a eu ne´anmoins dans la même periode une augmentation conside´rable dans la masse de monnoie me´tallique.
Obs. Cette addition est un fait etabli sur des documents officels. La quantite´ de monnoie d’or frappe´e dans ce regne27 montoit en 1801 a £44.
C’est là le montant de ce qui doit exister aujourd’hui, moins la quantite´quiae´te´ fondue ou exporte´e sans retour.
Je ne connois aucune raison de pre´sumer qu’il y ait eu une quantite´ un peu conside´rable fondue ou exporte´e sans retour....
v.Position. Quelle que ait e´te´ l’augmentation dans la masse de monnoie me´tallique, celle du papier-monnoie a e´te´ telle que des deux ensemble il en a resulte´ une addition considerable àla masse du nume´raire.
Obs. Les prix n’etant ni plus ni moins que les sommes d’argent paye´es, affirmer qu’il y a eu augmentation dans l’ensemble des prix, pendant un certain temps, c’est affirmer en d’autres termes qu’ilyaeu augmentation de nume´raire. Or comme ce n’est pas28 telle ou telle espece de nume´raire, mais toutes les especes ensemble qui forment les prix, tout ce qui ne vient pas dans cette hausse de la monnoie me´tallique doit être attribue´ au papier-monnoie.
vi.Position. Dans les 40 dernieres anne´es du siecle dernier, l’augmentation des prix a e´te´ telle qu’à la fin de ce terme ils etoient double de ce qu’ils e´toient au commencement.
ix.Position. L’effet de cette depreciation sur la valeur de cette classe de revenus qu’on peut appeller revenus fixes ae´te´ celui d’une taxe virtuelle quoique indirecte sur ces revenus....
x.Position. Cette taxe indirecte sur les possesseurs des revenus fixes ne produit aucun be´ne´fice au gouvernement ni sous29 le rapport de la finance ni sous aucun autre.
xii.Position. Durant la même periode de 40 ans, il s’est fait une addition très considerable à la masse de la richesse re´elle;30 entendant par richesse re´elle toute espece de richesse autre que l’argent....
xiii.Position. L’augmentation permanente des prix a eu pour seule cause efficiente l’accroissement dans la quantite´ d’argent, au delàdecequiae´te´ balance´ par l’accroissement de la richesse re´elle....
xiv.Position. Toute augmentation dans la masse de l’argent par delà l’augmentation qui s’est faite dans la masse des articles ve´naux, peut être conside´re´e comme existant en excès: e´tant productive31 de la hausse des prix, conse´quemment d’une taxe indirecte sur les revenus fixes en proportion de cette hausse, et d’un surcroȸt de danger de la banqueroute....
26. Is not this principle to which I agree opposed by that which I have marked 22.
27. This can by no means be admitted.
28. The same effects follow from a diminution in the amount of commodities as from an increase in the amount of currency so that an increase of prices is no more a proof of an increase of currency than a decrease of goods.
Ought the effects of taxation to be left out of the question?
29. If Government is indebted to the people it is so far benefited by a depreciation of money.
30. The author here asserts what I imagined he had before denied that an increase of prices may accompany increased wealth.
propositions sur les effets du papier-monnoie.
32Premiere Proposition. L’accroissement du credit pecuniaire a produit un accroissement de richesse et par conse´quent de population.
Au premier coup d’il, cette proposition paroit trop evidente pour avoir besoin de preuve. Quand on l’examine de plus près, il se presente des objections si fortes qu’elles semblent ne pas admettre de reponse: mais en approfondissant le sujet, ces mêmes objections s’evanou¨ssent et le premier apperc¸u se trouve confirme´ par le dernier jugement.
La quantite´ de richesse d’un pays dependra donc à la fin d’une periode donne´e des circonstances suivantes.
1. La capacite´ de travail employe´e durant cette periode.
2. L’emploi plus ou moins avantageux qu’on en a fait, c.a.d. les effets plus ou moins grands qu’on a su tirer de ce travail.
3. Le plus ou moins de dure´e des articles produits.
33 4. La proportion plus ou moins grande entre le travail productif et le travail improductif.
D’après cette analyse de la formation des richesses, le travail et l’efficacite´ du travail sont les seules causes productives: l’augmentation du nume´raire n’y entre pour rien.
J’ai annonce´ d’avance qu’un examen plus attentif re´solvoit cette objection et replac¸oit le nume´raire parmi les causes de la richesse. La difficulte´ est leve´e par une distinction.
Ce n’est pas la quantite´ d’argent introduite dans la Communaute´, ce n’est pas cette quantite´ conside´re´e absolument, qui peut augmenter la richesse. Cela de´pend de la maniere dont elle est introduite et des mains dans lesquelles elle passe.
La richesse re´elle de la Communaute´ n’augmente en effet que par les moyens enume´re´s ci-dessus: mais s’il est de la nature de l’argent, quand il est introduit d’une certaine maniere, de donner à ces moyens un developpement plus actif qu’ils n’auroient eu sans cela, l’argent, introduit de cette maniere devient source d’accroissement de richesse.
Dans un pays qui n’a point de mines d’or et d’argent, les me´taux pre´cieux ne s’augmentent que par une importation qui est le re´sultat de l’industrie et du commerce. Les hommes qui l’importent sont de la classe productive, et le premier emploi qu’ils en font est d’augmenter les productions, chacun dans le genre de leur commerce. Ceux qui emettent le papier-monnoie, ce papier repre´sentatif de l’argent, sont de la même classe. Ce papier-monnoie n’est employe´ en première instance que pour des objets de production. Il n’est emprunte´ que par ceux qui veulent s’en servir en guise de capital productif dans des entreprises d’agriculture, de manufacture ou de commerce, dans lesquels il y a un profit, qui est autant d’ajoute´à la masse de la richesse nationale.
Sans cette nouvelle introduction d’argent, il auroit manque´un moyen de faire naȸtre cette nouvelle richesse. Les classes improductives qui vivent sur des revenus fixes les de´pensent sans economiser: ces classes improductives pourroient avoir fait cette addition à la richesse, mais en general elles ne la font pas: les classes productives qui font cette addition, au moyen d’un nouveau Capital, auroient e´te´ assez dispose´es à la faire sans cela, mais elles ne l’auroient pas pû.
31. Why should we fix on a period 40 years back more than any other as the standard by which this excess is to be estimated.
Would it be desirable to have a money which was itself for ever invariable in its value?
32. This chapter begins with what I consider a stumbling block,—I cannot agree that any addition to the money of a country produces riches, and population.
33. Do not all these points resolve themselves into the last?
Note sur I Proposition.—Effets d’une addition au nume´raire selon son premier emploi.
Pour placer cette ve´rite sous un nouveau jour par l’effet du contraste, prenons le cas où le nume´raire (l’argent) est introduit par des non-commerc¸ants. Nous verrons qu’il ne produit point de nouvelle richesse, ou qu’il en produit moins que dans le cas où il est introduit par le commerce.
Supposez que l’argent vienne sur le pied de rentes paye´es aux proprietaires de mines d’or et d’argent; etant partie du produit de ces mines.—Dans ce cas, il sera principalement employe´ dans le premier progrès de sa circulation à l’achat des objets consommables et improductifs qui constituent la depense de tout homme vivant de ses rentes....
Au second pas, une portion de cet argent passera dans les mains des classes productives, et aura l’effet d’ajouter à la somme de la richesse re´elle de la même maniere que le tout y auroit contribue´ s’il eut e´te´ d’abord introduit par la classe productive. Cette portion est celle qui compose le profit mercantile des classes industrieuses sur les divers articles dans l’achat desquels ces rentes ont e´te´ depense´es. Ce profit, selon le calcul le plus ordinaire, est de 15 pr cent. De ces £15, £10 pr cent seront depense´es sur des objets de consommation rapide pour l’entretien de ces classes industrieuses, et pour le maintien de tout le capital fixe en magazins, en outils, en machines &c. Les £5 restant seront un profit net qui peut grossir leur capital productif et faire une addition à la richesse re´elle....
En un mot, le total des £15, soustraites des £100 depense´es en consommation par le riche rentier sur un revenu provenant des mines d’or et d’argent et retenues comme profit par les classes industrieuses sur la fourniture de ces valeurs, est employe´ exactement de la même maniere et ajoute´à la masse de la richesse nationale exactement dans la même proportion que le total des £100 l’eut e´te´ s’il eut e´te´ introduit par la classe industrieuse et applique´à des emplois productifs....
En dernier re´sultat, il paroit donc qu’un nouveau nume´raire produira une nouvelle richesse ou non, suivant le premier emploi auquel il est mis, et par consequent, selon l’espece de mains par lesquelles il est introduit et applique´—qu’il produit une nouvelle richesse lorsqu’il est introduit par des classes industrieuses et applique´à des emplois productifs—et qu’il n’en produit pas lorsqu’il est introduit par des rentiers qui depensent leurs revenus, comme on le fait communement dans cette classe, sur objets de consommation et de jou¨ssance.
Après tout ce qu’on vient de dire de l’argent me´tallique, il n’est pas besoin de nous arrêter longtemps sur le papier-monnoie. Le papier-monnoie a ce caractere qui le distingue, de n’être jamais introduit en premiere instance, que par des mains mercantiles pour être employe´ aux usages du commerce, à des emplois productifs, et toujours de maniere à faire une addition, dans son premier de´boursement, à la richesse re´elle.
Le seul cas où il n’ait pas e´te´ employe´à l’enrichissement, c’est lorsqu’il a e´te´ emis en premiere instance par le souverain du pays pour fournir à des branches improductives de depense, ne´cessaires ou non ne´cessaires—à l’entretien des arme´es, à la fabrication des armes et à toutes les consommations qui constituent la splendeur34 d’une Cour.
34. I wish this chapter had been introduced earlier, it would have saved me much difficulty in endeavoring to penetrate the views of the author. After the consideration which he must have given to the subject it would appear presumptuous in me to express myself so strongly as I feel on what I consider the errors which this chapter contains. That money is the causes of riches has been supported throughout the work and has in my view entirely spoiled it. There is but one way in which an increase of money no matter how it be introduced into the society, can augment riches, viz at the expence of the wages of labour; till the wages of labour have found their level with the increased prices which the commodities will have experienced, there will be so much additional revenue to the manufacturer and farmer they will obtain an increased price for their commodities, and can whilst wages do not increase employ an additional number of hands, so that the real riches of the country will be somewhat augmented. A productive labourer will produce something more than before relatively to his consumption, but this can be only of momentary duration. I should endeavor further to prove what appears to me so obvious a principle was I not persuaded that you viewed it in the same light, and I should be therefore only repeating what had before suggested itself to you.
Note sur I Proposition.—Vue hypothetique de l’accroissement de la richesse sans l’ope´ration des mines d’Amerique et du papier-monnoie.
Ce seroit l’objet d’une spe´culation assez curieuse que d’examiner quel auroit e´te´ le progrès de la richesse, si plusieurs causes modernes qui ont concouru à son accroissement n’avoient pas existe´: telles que l’augmentation des me´taux metalliques par la decouverte des mines du nouveau monde—l’etablissement des banques—et le credit du papier-monnoie, e´mis par des banques particulieres....
Quant aux prix ils auroient toujours e´te´ en diminuant: l’argent35 devenant rare de plus en plus à proportion de l’accroissement dans la population et dans les choses venales, les rentes en ble´ eussent e´te´ etablies, non comme elles le sont quelquefois à pre´sent pour la protection des proprietaires, mais pour celle du fermier.
Les rentes fixes, comme les salaires, les pensions, les annuïte´s, les redevances pe´cuniaires, les hypothe´ques auroient e´te´ dans un etat d’accroissement continuel. Dans le cours d’une longue vie les annuïte´s viageres auroient pu devenir un fardeau intolerable pour le fond sur lequel elles auroient e´te´ assises.
Quant à la richesse re´elle, son progrès n’eut pas e´te´ si rapide, sans l’accession faite par ces divers moyens aux capitaux productifs. Mais on ne sauroit douter qu’elle n’eut e´te´ en croissant chez les nations commerc¸antes et particulierement en Angleterre, à proportion du degre´desûrete´ politique. Sans parler de l’ancienne Grece et de l’ancienne Italie... l’exemple de la Chine est une preuve suffisante qu’une nation peut arriver à un degre´ d’opulence e´gal au nôtre sous un gouvernement moins favorable àlasûrete´, sans aucun de ces moyens d’accroissement dans la quantite´ou la force effective du nume´raire.
D’un autre côte´, si vous supposez que l’Europe n’eut pas eu par d’autres causes des guerres equivalentes à celles dont l’Amerique ae´te´ la source, et que vous de´duisiez des profits du commerce avec le nouveau monde tout ce qu’il en a coûte´ pour ces guerres et pour l’etablissement des colonies,... il semble bien douteux que la non-existence du commerce Americain eut entraȸne´ une diminution sensible dans la quantite´ de la richesse re´elle. Sa36 composition actuelle eut e´te´ un peu differente: mais je ne vois pas de raison decisive pour supposer qu’elle eut e´te´ moindre.
x. Proposition. Le papier des banques Provinciales est sujet à exister en excès.
...Le papier-monnoie d’une banque donne au porteur le droit de demander au banquier une portion correspondente d’argent me´tallique.
La question est donc de savoir quelles circonstances—ordinaires ou extraordinaires—actuelles ou probables—peuvent occasionner une demande d’argent en lieu et place de ce papier.
Ce qu’on peut regarder comme les occasions extraordinaires sont:
1. Une defiance generale du papier-monnoie.
2. Une defiance particuliere du papier de telle banque.
3. Une demande extraordinaire sur la banque en question par une banque rivale ou hostile.
Je ne connois aucune autre cause appartenante à ce chef à37 moins que ce ne soit une demande par un besoin de petite monnoie, pour servir aux transactions journalieres où les gros billets de banque ne s’appliquent pas. Ce cas a existe´ lors qu’il etoit defendu aux banques provinciales de faire des billets de banque au dessous de £5: il existeroit de nouveau si cette prohibition qui n’est que suspendue etoit retablie....
Depuis 1797 où cette permission fut accorde´e, il s’est ecoule´ un temps suffisant pour montrer que la demande d’argent qui38 existoit alors n’etoit point fonde´e sur la de´fiance du papier, mais uniquement sur le besoin de petite monnoie pour les transactions journalieres....
La conclusion semble être qu’avec un fonds de securite´ suffisant pour repondre à ces demandes peu conside´rables d’argent, la nature de la chose ne fournit point de limite à l’emission du papier, aussi longtemps que le banquier peut y trouver l’expectative d’un profit.
La ne´cessite´ de reserver un fonds de se´curite´ proportionnel39 à la quantite´ de papier qu’il emet peut sembler d’abord un contrôle qui opere pour moderer cette quantite´. Mais nous venons de voir que la demande d’argent à laquelle il est expose´ est bien peu conside´rable.
x. Proposition. Suite.... Le cre´dit du papier est une disposition de l’opinion publique qui s’affermit tellement par l’exemple general et par l’habitude qu’il arrive un temps où personne ne pense à le convertir en argent: abstraitement parlant, chacun peut savoir que la masse qui existe n’a point de base solide, mais cette reflexion spe´culative ne se mêle point aux transactions ordinaires de la vie, et la defiance n’existe pas sur telle ou telle piece individuelle de ce papier. On le rec¸oit comme on le donne. Un autre s’y est fie´, on peut s’y fier de même....
Que ce soient des bulles d’air, si l’on veut, ces bulles acquierent par l’habitude une consistence qui suffit pour les rendre propres au service, jusqu’à ce qu’il arrive un choc imprevu et soudain auquel elles ne puissent pas re´sister. L’individu qui les prend ne les rec¸oit pas d’apre´s l’opinion qu’il a lui-même de leur solidite´, mais d’apre´s l’opinion qu’il voit ou qu’il suppose dans les autres. Il en fut ainsi dans la spe´culation du Mississipi—il en fut ainsi dans celle de la mer du Sud—Je puis croire qu’une note de £100 ne vaut pas un fe´tu—je n’en serois pas moins dispose´ à en donner £200 si je vois d’autres personnes dispose´es àla prendre de moi non seulement pour la même somme, mais pour40 une plus grande.
xi. Proposition. Le papier ne´gociable n’est pas susceptible du même excès que le papier-monnoie des banques Provinciales..
xii. Proposition. La Banqueroute est une conse´quence ne´cessaire41d’une augmentation de papier-monnoie, supposant qu’on ne lui mette aucune limite.
Cette proposition est aussi importante que sa preuve est facile et certaine.
A mesure que le papier-monnoie s’accroit, les Banquiers reservent une quantite´ proportionnelle d’argent me´tallique pour leur fonds de se´curite´, ou ils ne le font pas.—Dans le second cas, la banqueroute doit arriver par le de´ficit de ce fonds; dans le premier, par sa ple´nitude.
xii. Proposition. Suite—Banqueroute. J’entends par Banqueroute generale la destruction de la valeur de tout papiermonnoie ainsi que du credit qui sert de base au commerce de banque....
Une quantite´ de marchandises etant donne´e, les prix sont en proportion de la quantite´ d’argent qui est en circulation et de la rapidite´ de cette circulation: l’ane´antissement du papier-monnoie et du commerce des banques aura donc pour effet ne´cessaire la reduction de tous les prix, en supposant que la quantite´ des marchandises venales reste la même. Tous les prix tomberoient à peu près au cinquieme de leur etat actuel et les gages du travail seroient reduits dans la même proportion [Dumont’s note: ‘Je n’ai pas du tout compris l’argument, et je l’ai supprime´:’]. Les terres au lieu de valoir 24 ou 30 anne´es d’achat ne vaudroient plus que cinq43 ou six anne´es de leur rente actuelle. Une guine´e alors vaudroit autant que cinq à pre´sent. L’heureux possesseur des especes trouveroit sa proprie´te´ multiplie´e par cinq: tout autre proprietaire trouveroit la sienne reduite dans la même proportion.
Is it not probable that the old mines would have been productive of increase in much the same proportion as the surface of the earth? Increased price must call forth increased produce, unless the source of production is exhausted.
If so pensions, and the divd. on the national debt would not as here suppose have augmented in value.
That the increase of money is not been the cause of increased riches the author himself gives us an example in China.
This is no doubt a correct opinion.
The greatest cause is here omitted and which forms the subject in dispute at the present day, the high price of bullion and low exchanges caused by excess of paper.
This has not been proved, on the contrary the fact of guineas having been hoarded in 1797 is well established.
It is evident that these principles are very defective. Bankers cannot safely emit paper in proportion to their deposits. A banker may with a million of deposit safely issue 3 but it does not follow that with a deposit of 10 million he may safely issue 30.
From what has been lately written on this subject the authorâ€™s speculations in this chapter are founded in error.
By Negociable paper I conclude is meant bills of exchange: These may be considered as the cause of the increase of paper issues, as it is on these securities that money is generally borrowed from Banks. It may therefore be affirmed that prices are raised in consequence of the increase of these bills, because the paper money would never be called into existence if bills did not precede them. The distinction in the effects of the two sorts of paper is not apparent to me.
This chapter is altogether objectionable.
This chapter very defective.â€”It is clear that the circulation cannot be indefinitely augmented in proportion to the increase of depositsâ€”No notice taken of the effects of an excess of circulation in producing the export of gold.â€”The high price of bullion entirely owing to an excess of currency. â€”General bankruptcy not to be occasioned by excessive circulation whilst Banks pay in specie.
The utter discredit of all paper money would not be attended with the effects here asserted,â€”Commodities would no doubt fall very considerably but the fall would be temporary not permanent, provided the circulation of paper before the annihilation of credit was exchangeable for the precious metals at par.â€”We should very soon obtain such a supply of gold in exchange for commodities that prices would nearly regain their former level.
profits et avantages operant en compensation pour les maux de l’excès.
I. Le premier avantage qui resulte d’une addition à la masse du nume´raire, faite par la voie commerciale, est une addition44 correspondente faite à la masse de la richesse re´elle: savoir, par le premier emploi de ce nouveau capital en depenses productives....
S’il s’agissoit de mettre dans la balance le bien et le mal re´sultant de cette addition, il y auroit lieu à une grande diversite´ de sentiment. La même personne, selon que l’homme public ou l’homme prive´ pre´domineroit dans la composition de ses sentiments, pour- roit trouver des re´sultats bien differents....
44. This principle has been repeatedly disputed.
The loss to individuals in consequence of additions to the circulating medium would not be compensated by any benefit to the public.
augmentation du prix des terres et des fonds publics et autres sources per manentes de revenu—mal contre-balance ´ par un bien e´gal.
...A proportion que la masse des sources de revenu augmente en prix, la classe des capitalistes pe´cuniaires eprouve le sentiment d’une perte dans la même proportion, dans tous les cas où ils ont à faire l’achat de quelque source de revenu.
Cette perte en même temps est contrebalance´e par le gain qui en re´sulte pour les possesseurs des terres ou des fonds de qui45 on achete....
45. An augmentation of money in all cases operates to the disadvantage of some and the advantage of others,— it will neither accelerate nor retard the growth of real riches.
montant du profit des banques compare ´ a la perte.46
46. This would be the case if the Banks really added to the circulation by their issues,—but in the sound state of every currency no bank can add to the amount of the circulation they can only force the metallic circulation out of the country and replace it by paper. In which case the gains of the banker will be national gains, they will be made at the expence of the world at large,—in the first case they were made at the expence of the country only where the paper was issued.
evaluation de la perte sur les revenus fixes.47
47. The calculations here made are on a wrong basis,— they suppose a power in bankers to add at their pleasure to the circulation,—whenever they can do this the circulation is diseased and cannot be exchangeable for specie.
comparaison avec les faux-monnoyeurs.
...D’après les lois d’Angleterre sur le monnoyage, lois qui pechent egalement par excès et par de´faut, par severite´ et par ne´gligence, le même individu qui met en circulation quelques pièces de me´tal de sa propre autorite´, est puni ou par un leger48 emprisonnement, ou par la transportation ou par la mort, selon le poids, la couleur ou les autres proprie´te´s physiques du me´tal dont il s’est servi ou qu’il a pretendu imiter. Tel est le sort de ceux dont le profit derive d’une addition faite à la masse du nume´raire sous la forme me´tallique: tandis que celui qui ajoute à la masse du nume´raire sous la forme de papier jouït en pleine securite´ et avec honneur des benefices qu’il recueille sous la protection de la loi.
Singularite´ de cette taxe indirecte.
...Dans la banque d’Angleterre, l’exercice de ce droit de taxer est soumis à un certain contrôle.... Mais les banquiers prive´s,agissent chacun dans leur sphere, comme des Souverains inde´- pendants, et ne sont responsables qu’à eux-mêmes de l’usage49 qu’ils font de cette inestimable pre´rogative.... De simples individus, de simples marchands, avec la seule signature d’un Commis au bas de leurs billets de banque, levent chaque anne´e un impôt indirect non seulement sur sa Majeste´, mais sur tous les proprietaires, sur toute la masse du revenu national.
48. No national advantage would attend the arts of the coiner, but a real advantage would under proper circumstances attend the emission of paper.
49. This observation is applicable to the present state of our paper currency but not to the state in which it would be if our banks were not protected by a restriction bill.
opinion d’adam smith sur les prix.
Dès qu’il s’agit d’Economie politique, la pense´e se porte d’abord vers Adam Smith. Que dit ce grand maître sur le sujet de la hausse des prix, et du mal que vous lui attribuez? Que dit-il du papiermonnoie et de son influence sur les prix?
...Quant au papier-monnoie, il en parle avec etendue: mais son influence sur les prix, il n’en dit rien. La raison de son silence est assez e´vidente. Dans sa maniere de voir, le papier monnoie n’a jamais fait et ne peut jamais faire aucune addition à la masse totale du nume´raire en circulation. Comment cela?—C’est qu’il deplace toujours une quantite´e´gale de monnoie me´tallique....
Examinons d’abord la verite´ du fait.
Voilà pour les faits. Par rapport à l’argument sur lequel Adam Smith s’appuye, il ne paroit pas d’une grande solidite´.
Il pose d’abord en principe qu’il y a dans tous les temps une certaine quantite´ d’argent qui n’est pas susceptible d’augmentation, à moins que la quantite´ des choses venales ne soit augmente´e. Mais c’est affirmer la proposition même qui etoit à prouver: et au fond, c’est contredire un fait de notorie´te´ publique et admis50 par lui-même: car à moins d’une diminution dans la quantite´ des choses ve´nales, comment les prix peuvent-ils avoir hausse´ sans une addition proportionnelle à la quantite´ du nume´raire, lorsque la masse des choses venales restoit la même?
La roue de la circulation, suivant son hypothese, est remplie avec du papier: par conse´quent la monnoie me´tallique n’y sauroit entrer, il n’y a point de place pour elle. Mais ajoute-t-il la monnoie metallique est trop pre´cieuse pour rester oisive (L.ii. c.2.): il s’ensuit qu’elle est exporte´e.
Je conviens qu’elle est trop pre´cieuse pour rester oisive: mais pour quoi sera-t-elle oisive en restant où elle est? Quel est le fondement de son assertion? Ce n’est qu’une simple metaphore, la me´taphore de sa roue qui e´tant remplie rejette tout le surplus ou n’en admet point. Ce qui suppose que personne ne veut plus garder le nume´raire me´tallique, que l’on n’en a plus besoin, qu’il n’est pas ne´cessaire pour servir de base au papier,—que la promesse est tout—que l’accomplissement n’est rien—et que l’or promis par le papier a moins de valeur que le papier qui le promet.
Tel est le danger de la rhe´torique substitue´e à la logique. L’imagination est trompe´e par ces figures de roues, de circulation, d’ecluses, de torrents: et l’esprit laisse e´chapper le veritable rapport qui existe entre l’acheteur et le vendeur, entre le papier qui n’est qu’une promesse et l’or qui est la chose promise....
La facilite´ avec laquelle peut circuler une quantite´ de papier monnoie (promesses de payer) a ses limites parce que le cre´dit de ceux qui l’emettent est limite´: il n’y en a pas d’autres....
50. The principle of Adam Smith is mistaken; he did not say that the money of a country was not susceptible of increase, but that such increase depended on the diminished value of the precious metals. He did not deny that the discovery of the mines of America augmented the circulation of all country but expressly affirmed it. It may be doubted whether any circumstances can raise prices generally but taxation, or a diminution in the real value of the precious metals in consequence of increased abundance.—The reason why gold was exported when paper was added to the circulation was not because both the paper and the gold could not be absorbed in the general mass of circulation but because the diminished value of the currency here, whilst it retained its value abroad made it a profitable article of exportation.
This is a consequence of which the author of the manuscript does not appear to have been aware, and is of great importance in all enquiries concerning money.
The reasoning in this chapter is excellent if applied to our present circulation but not applied to that state of it when Adam Smith wrote. Dr. Smith was undoubtedly correct.
1. Mon opinion est que l’accroissement du nume´raire [Dumont’s51note: ‘me´tallique? je suppose’] a e´te´ productif d’un accroissement de richesse re´elle, à raison de la maniere dont le nume´raire additionnel a e´te´ introduit: c.à.d. par des mains commerciales qui l’ont employe´ en premiere instance en guise de capital productif, en travaux productifs &c.
2. Mon opinion en même temps est que cette addition au nume´raire n’etoit pas une cause sine quâ non pour la production d’une même quantite´ donne´e de richesse re´elle: que si les mêmes valeurs qui ont e´te´ donne´es pour obtenir du dehors ce nume´raire additionnel avoient e´te´ employe´es à produire d’autres valeurs achete´es par des consommateurs dans la grande Bretagne, et par conse´quent achete´es avec l’ancien fonds de nume´raire, la même addition à la richesse re´elle auroit pu avoir lieu, sans aucune addition à la richesse pe´cuniaire. (Ex. La Chine)
3. Que par conse´quent une augmentation dans la quantite´de nume´raire me´tallique est un accompagnement purement accidentel à l’augmentation de la richesse re´elle—et n’a point de tendance à produire cette augmentation.
4. Que l’avantage d’operer sur une grande e´chelle, surtout dans les manufactures, a une tendance à produire un acroissement de richesse re´elle—que l’exportation des articles manufacture´s, donnant plus d’etendue à la fabrication, et faisant operer sur une plus grande e´chelle, a une tendance à augmenter la quantite´ de valeurs usuelles produites annuellement par l’emploi d’un capital re´el donne´: mais que c’est seulement dans cette supposition qu’un capital donne´, re´el ou pe´cuniaire, produit plus de richesse quand il est employe´à produire des valeurs destine´es à l’exportation et exporte´es que quand il est employe´à produire des valeurs destine´es à la consommation du pays et consomme´es dans le pays. (Ex: brasserie)
5. Que quelque soit la proportion dans laquelle le commerce etranger peut contribuer à l’accroissement de la richesse au delà de ce qui auroit lieu sans ce commerce, cet accroissement ne depend en aucune maniere de l’addition à la quantite´ d’or et d’argent qui peut re´sulter de ce commerce etranger: l’accroissement en un mot seroit le même si le commerce se faisoit avec des nations qui ne donnassent point d’or et d’argent en retour, ou qui même n’en eussent point à donner.
6. Que par consequent l’effet d’un commerce etranger est plutôt de modifier la qualite´ et d’accroitre la varie´te´ des ingre´dients dans la composition de la masse de la richesse que d’ajouter à l’accroissement naturel de la quantite´: et que l’importation d’or et d’argent, conside´re´e à part des autres articles, n’a point de tendance à ajouter à la richesse re´elle.
7. Qu’entant que l’accroissement dans la masse d’or et d’argent contribue à ajouter à la masse du nume´raire, il n’a point de tendance à augmenter la masse de la richesse re´elle.
8. Que, entant que l’accroissement du commerce etranger contribue à l’accroissement de la richesse, l’accroissement du nume´raire opere en sens contraire: parce que en augmentant le prix pe´cuniaire des articles ainsi manufacture´s, il diminue la quantite´ que les nations etrangeres peuvent ou veulent acheter de ces mêmes articles. [Dumont’s note: ‘(Quære)’.]
9. Que quoiqu’une addition à la masse du nume´raire me´tallique n’ajoute rien à l’accroissement naturel de la richesse re´elle, cependant une addition à la masse du nume´raire repre´sentatif ou papiermonnoye contribue à l’accroissement de la richesse re´elle: c’est à dire, autant que cette addition se fait par des mains commerciales, qu’elle est applique´e en premiere instance à produire desvaleurs usuelles; parce que l’addition faite par cette voie àla masse du travail productif n’auroit pu se faire par aucune autre, à moins de l’intervention coercitive du gouvernement—au lieu que l’addition faite au capital productif par une importation de nume´raire auroit pu se faire egalement par le nume´raire du fonds preexistent.
10. Que par conse´quent des deux especes d’argent, le primaire et le secondaire, le re´el et le repre´sentatif, le me´tal et le papier, c’est le papier-monnoie seul qui est essentiellement productif d’une addition à l’accroissement de la richesse re´elle: en augmentant la proportion du travail employe´ d’une maniere productive.
11. Que l’addition faite par cette voye à la richesse re´elle, quoique plus grande qu’elle n’auroit pu se faire autrement, sans l’intervention coercitive du gouvernement, n’est ni plus grande ni même aussi grande que celle qui auroit pu se faire par cette intervention—que l’addition faite par cette voye a des desavantages particuliers qui ne se trouveroient point dans la même addition, re´sultant de l’intervention coercitive du gouvernement.
12. Que l’addition faite par l’introduction d’une nouvelle masse de papier-monnoie ne peut se faire sans imposer une taxe indirecte sur le revenu national, taxe infiniment plus forte et plus one´reuse que la taxe directe qui seroit leve´e par le gouvernement, pour être applique´e de la même maniere à des emplois productifs.
13. Que la tendance presque universelle à regarder l’accroissement du nume´raire comme accroissement de richesse est le re´sultat (comme elle a peut être e´te´ originairement la cause) d’une improprie´te´ dans le langage ordinaire, en conse´quence de laquelle le mot argent (richesse) est indiffe´remment employe´ pour signifier des especes frappe´es et la richesse re´elle,—l’argent, et tout ce qu’on peut avoir en echange pour de l’argent: c’est à dire, d’une part, tout ce qui est de l’argent, et de l’autre tout ce qui n’est pas de l’argent. [Dumont’s note: ‘En franc¸ois l’equivoque est plutôt sur le mot richesse que sur le mot argent—en anglois money and real wealth’]...
51. As this Chapter contains a recapitulation of the author’s opinions it may require particular attention.
1. As the whole of the revenue of a country is spent either on productive or unproductive labourers, the prices of commodities for that year is not affected by the proportion, in which revenue may be actually consumed without reproduction,—or consumed and reproduced. It is difficult to comprehend why an increase of money should produce any other effect than to raise prices; and why the author should suppose that it will be the cause of the increased production of commodities. Labour is paid not by money but by money’s worth therefore if prices rise it will not occasion any increased production because more money must be given to the labourer to enable him to obtain the same amount of commodities.
2. If with the produce of the labour of England we purchase a quantity of gold from any other country which we add to our circulating medium, we in such proportion diminish our real capital and therefore the source of future riches. The additional money will yield no revenue whatever, the capital with which we should have parted would.
3. Consequently an addition to the quantity of metallic money is not only of no advantage, but is a positive evil as it impoverishes the country which obtains it, or at least checks it in its progress towards wealth.
4. It is true that a capital employed in extending the manufacture of those commodities which may be advantageously exported is highly desireable, but an increase of money will not enable us to add to the annual amount of the land and labour of the country. The produce of that labour will be measured only on a different scale. It can make no difference to the real wealth of the country whether the commodities produced be exported or consumed at home. If 100 pieces of cloth be consumed at home or whether they are exported to Portugal in exchange for wine and the wine be consumed at home can make no other difference but the profit. —If they were exchanged for goods more durable the effects would be the same. If we imported Russias linen, and the consumers of the linen were to reproduce the value in some other commodity, it would be nearly the same as if the consumers of the cloth at home were to reproduce the value of the cloth. I do not mean to depreciate the advantages of foreign commerce. If not beneficial we should not engage in it,—but it is not beneficial because we do engage in it.
By carrying on manufactures on a large scale you may undoubtedly increase the real riches of a country, and the exportation of manufactured commodities will encourage their production, and augment their quantity. It will do this in a greater degree than if the commodities were destined for home consumption. This is in other words saying that we engage in foreign commerce because it is advantageous to us.
5. This foreign commerce is not profitable because we import gold in return for our commodities, but would be equally if not more so if the nations with whom such commerce was carried on had neither gold or silver to give in return for the goods which we exported.
6. That therefore foreign commerce modifies the quality and increases the variety of productions which compose the mass of wealth, and only adds to the natural growth of its quantity by giving a more beneficial employment to labour; and that the importation of gold and silver has no tendency more than other articles to increase the real wealth of countries.
7. That because the increase of the precious metals contribute to add to the circulating medium, it does not therefore cause any augmentation to the mass of real wealth.
8. It is not obvious that the rise of prices in consequence of an increased circulating medium will check the growth of wealth because it checks the exportation of goods.—Such an effect is generally counteracted by the fall in the rate of exchange.
9. If an increase of metallic money will not increase national wealth,—why should an increase of paper money produce such effects. In what way can the increase of paper money operate on the production of commodities? Why should it increase productive labour more than an equal quantity of metallic money if obtained thro’ the same channel and with equal facility.
10. It is difficult to comprehend how paper money should increase productive labour.
11. If the effects of an increase of paper money are the same as a coercive interference of government it must be because a portion of revenue will in consequence be employed in the maintenance of productive labour which but for that interference, or such addition of paper money[,] would not be so employed. But what proofs are there that additions to the paper currency would be the cause of accumulation of capital? What should give to one class a disposition to accumulate which is not possessed by another? This must be mere speculation—it might be so, but it is equally probable that it might be otherwise.
12. The increase of paper money would operate as a tax on one part of the community in favor of the other part.
13. The disposition to consider an increase of money as an increase of riches arises out of the imperfection of language, which confounds the terms riches and money.
r´sultats ou propositions generales.
521. Le haussement des prix et l’accroissement de la richesse sont des effets concomitants de la même cause.
2. Cette cause est l’extension du Credit, manifeste´e dans la53 circulation du papier-monnoie et les ope´rations du commerce de Banque: toutes sommes ainsi prête´es etant employe´es en premiere instance à faire une addition au Capital productif et par conse´quent à la masse de la richesse annuelle.
3. Quoique la masse de la richesse pût recevoir un accroissement considerable du principe seul de l’Economie, sans aucune addition faite à la masse ou à l’efficacite´ du nume´raire, par consequent54 sans aucune augmentation et même avec une diminution des prix,—cependant cet accroissement sera beaucoup plus conside´rable à l’aide de ces secours.
4. Comme il est de l’essence du papier-monnoie et autres ope´rations de banque, de cre´er une masse d’engagements qu’il seroit physiquement impossible d’acquitter tout à la fois si on55 venoit àenre´clamer l’accomplissement, il s’ensuit que l’existence de ce papier-monnoie est accompagne´e du continuel danger de la plus grande des calamite´s nationales—et qu’en un mot l’extrarichesse qui resulte de ce papier est achete´e au prix du danger continuel d’une banqueroute.
5. Comme un Banquier qui emet du papier-monnoie risque son principal pour un profit qui n’excede pas l’inte´rêt, [Dumont’s note: ‘ai-je compris? texte obscur’] la pre´somption est qu’il n’existera de papier-monnoie que celui qui peut produire cet inte´rêt—mais comme le desir du gain peut l’emporter sur la prudence et que les calculs sont sujets àêtre de´concerte´s par une infinite´ d’accidents—le bien public semble exiger que les ope´rations des banques provinciales soient soumises au même contrôle que la banque d’Angleterre, par la connoissance qu’en prend le56 Gouvernement—d’autant plus que le Banquier ne hazarde pas sa proprie´te´ seulement, mais celle de la Communaute´ entiere, parce qu’une seule banqueroute affoiblit de´jà le cre´dit et qu’un certain nombre de banqueroutes particulieres peuvent en amener une ge´ne´rale, genre de calamite´ qui surpasse infiniment toutes les autres.
6. Ce contrôle paroit d’autant moins sujet à objection, que chaque Banque est en effet une fabrique où l’on fait de l’argent57 au profit du monnoyeur en e´gard à l’inte´rêt qu’il retire, et au profit de l’emprunteur en e´gard à son gain sur le capital qui lui est avance´—or inde´pendamment du danger expose´ ci-dessus, l’introduction de cette quantite´ d’argent agit plus promptement pour hausser les prix qu’elle ne peut agir pour produire une quantite´ proportionnelle d’articles à vendre.
8. Si l’on croit convenable de soumettre une Banque presque Nationale, aussi anciennement etablie et qui jouït de plus d’un58 siecle de confiance, au contrôle de la publicite´, la même convenance s’applique encore plus fortement à des banques nombreuses et obscures qui n’ont point de corporation et qui se multiplient de jour en jour.
10. A ces causes de danger pour le credit national de´jà connues du public, il faut en ajouter une autre qui l’est beaucoup moins: et qui consiste dans le manque d’un petit papier monnoie59 proportionne´à la quantite´ toujours croissante du grand papier: d’autant que les billets de banque de £5 et au delà ne peuvent être adapte´s aux objets de subsistence des classes laborieuses.
11. Or ce defaut de petit papier, seul propre aux petits payements, dont la masse totale excede la masse totale des grands payements, peut produire le même effet que le discredit du papier en general, en donnant lieu à une demande proportionnelle pour60 l’argent monnoie´—or quoique cette demande des especes n’ait lieu que par le besoin qu’on en sent pour les petits e´changes, il est presque impossible de la distinguer d’une demande qui seroit fonde´e sur la de´fiance du grand-papier—et toute apparence de defiance est accompagne´e d’un danger proportionnel au credit.
16. L’effet produit sur les prix, c.a.d. sur la valeur de l’argent, par l’extra-augmentation de richesse re´elle qui a resulte´ de l’augmentation faite à la quantite´età l’efficacite´ du nume´raire, est61 tel que dans l’espace de 40 ans, l’argent ne vaut que la moitie´ de ce qu’il valoit, et que dans 40 ans, il est probable qu’il ne vaudra que la moitie´ de ce qu’il vaut à pre´sent.
17. En conse´quence tous les revenus fixes dans cet intervalle ont e´te´re´duits à la moitie´ de leur valeur, et dans un intervalle semblable, ils seront probablement reduits d’une autre moitie´,c.a.d. qu’ils ne vaudront que le quart de ce qu’ils valoient au commencement du regne actuel.
18. De cette maniere, il y a une taxe progressive continuellement impose´e sur certaines classes de la socie´te´ par l’ope´ration et pour le benefice de quelques autres classes: taxe dont le montant62 dans le cours de la vie d’un individu e´quivaut plusieurs fois à toutes les taxes leve´es sur la Communaute´ pour le benefice commun.
1. Que la foiblesse radicale du papier-monnoie est continuellement expose´e à se manifester et se manifeste en effet de temps en temps dans ces demandes extraordinaires pour e´changer le papier en argent—inconve´nient qui jusqu’à pre´sent a eu ses limites dans la pratique, mais n’a d’autres limites certaines que la destruction totale du credit pe´cuniaire.
2. Que dans les cas où ce discredit s’est manifeste´, le remede s’est trouve´ dans les associations qui se sont faites pour donner cours à ce papier par un commun consentement, chaque associe´ fondant son acceptation sur l’assurance d’une acceptation pareille de la part de tous les autres.
3. Que pour la seconde fois depuis son institution le papier de la Banque d’Angleterre a e´te´ soutenu par la grande association63 des Capitalistes de la Metropole—en conse´quence de quoi il lui ae´te´ donne´ une valeur purement artificielle, quoique non moins effective, après que sa valeur intrinseque a e´te´de´truite par l’acte du Parlement qui rendoit non-exigible la promesse de payer d’ou dependoit sa valeur....
1. Que chaque nouvelle Banque provinciale qui s’etablit dans un lieu où elle peut ouvrir un depôt à des personnes qui jusques là avoient e´te´ dans l’habitude de laisser leur argent oisif, ajoute à la force effective et à la masse de l’argent, en proportion de l’etendue de ses transactions, c.à.d. dans la proportion de l’argent qu’elle tient en circulation par les mains de ceux à qui elle prête.
2. Qu’une nouvelle Banque dans ces circonstances en faisant64 une addition à la masse de la richesse re´elle en fait une aussi à l’inconvenient inse´parablement attache´à cet avantage, la hausse des prix.
3. Qu’une banque qui s’etablit dans un lieu où il en existe de´jà une semblable, ne fait aucune addition à la masse d’argent65 en circulation, à moins que par des liaisons particulieres, elle n’obtienne des depôts d’argent de la part de personnes qui gardoient leur argent oisif, sans le prêter à la banque de´jà etablie.
52. The rise of prices and the increase of riches have no necessary connection. Machinery adds to the real riches of a community at the same time that prices fall. An increased production of the mines will raise prices but will diminish the riches of the community who purchase with commodities an additional amount of gold for money.
55 We should be exposed to this danger if we had nothing but the precious metals in circulation,—though certainly not in so great a degree.
56 The obligation to pay in specie will be a sufficient check against a too lavish issue of paper. It might be proper for government to take some precautions against adventurers entering into the Banking business.
57 Not a just comparison as the power of issuing paper is limited.
58 The Bank of England was subject to no controul before the restriction bill, and as they have of all other banks exclusively the power of forcing a circulation they ought to be submitted to a controul to which it is not necessary to submit the other banks,—as they are subject to the controul of being obliged to pay their notes in the notes of the Bank of England.
59 As the large notes are exchangeable for small ones at the will of the holder there exists no danger of any un- equal proportion between notes above £5 and those under £5.
60 Answered by the last observation.
61 Depending altogether on the increase of the precious metals.
63. The value of bank notes not dependent on the credit given to them by any association, but to the persuasion of the solidity of the Bank. No association of individuals can prevent Bank notes from being depreciated compared with the standard if their quantity is excessive.
64. If such effect takes place,—the bank of no advantage.
65. Not consistent with the principles before advanced.
augmentation du nume´raire me´tallique.
[Dumont’s note: ‘je ne sais où placer cet article’.]
La quantite´ d’or et d’argent employe´e dans le Monnoyage est le surplus de ce qui n’est pas demande´ pour les diverses manufactures66 qui employent ces me´taux ou pour l’exportation....
L’or en lingot est fourni à la Monnoie par la Banque d’Angle- terre et rarement par des individus. La Banque est un marche´ toujours ouvert pour l’achat du lingot, à un prix un peu infe´rieur à celui de la Monnoie. L’individu trouve son compte à ce leger sacrifice, parce que la valeur lui est paye´e imme´diatement, au lieu qu’en l’envoyant à la Monnoie, il faudroit attendre pour un temps incertain jusqu’à ce que les especes fussent frappe´es et que tout eut passe´ par les diverses formalite´s de l’office.
L’avantage pour la banque est non seulement dans ce petit profit qu’elle fait sur le vendeur, mais encore dans l’emission d’une67 somme e´gale de son papier qu’elle donne en payement, et pour lequel elle rec¸oit un fonds de sûrete´ d’une valeur e´gale, et qui n’est pas seulement en expectative comme dans le cas de l’escompte des lettres de change, mais imme´diatement dans sa possession....
66. This is not correct because if half the money of the world were annihilated a part of the plate of each country would be coined into money.
67. If the bank have the gold coined which they purchase as bullion they are losers for the same reason that the sellers are gainers. They do not buy it sufficiently low to pay the interest which they lose during the detention at the mint. It is true they buy with their notes but inasmuch as they have issued notes for such purpose they are precluded from making interest on a like quantity which they might advance for discounts. They cannot maintain both sums in circulation.
que le cre´dit pe´cuniaire ne produit pas une exportation de monnoye metallique.
Un des mauvais effets qu’on attribue à l’abondance du papiermonnoie, c’est de causer une grande et reguliere exportation du nume´raire me´tallique.... Je regarde cette opinion comme errone´esous trois rapports.
1. Aucune exportation de nume´raire n’a eu lieu dans la periode de temps dont on parle, au moins aucune exportation considerable....
2. La cause allegue´e, (l’accroissement du papier-monnoie) n’a point de tendance à produire l’effet allegue´, (l’exportation de la monnoie me´tallique).
Dans le fait, elle a même une tendance oppose´e. Un fonds de securite´ est un accompagnement inseparable du papier-monnoie68 en circulation. Ce fonds de securite´ est compose´ en grande partie d’or et d’argent. Chaque addition faite au papier-monnoie produit non un de´croissement mais un accroissement dans la demande du nume´raire me´tallique: ce nume´raire est demande´ non pour le tenir en circulation, mais pour le garder en reserve, et constituer le fonds de securite´ des banquiers.
3. Cette exportation est incompatible avec le fait universellement reconnu de l’augmentation des prix. Si chaque addition faite au papier-monnoie avoit produit une diminution proportionnelle ou e´gale de monnoie me´tallique, les prix seroient reste´s69 sur le même pie´. La hausse des prix seroit dans cette supposition un effet sans cause, à moins qu’il n’y eut une diminution dans la masse des choses venales.
Si cette exportation du nume´raire me´tallique etoit un re´sultat70 de l’accroissement du papier-monnoie, ce mal pre´tendu seroit plutôt un bien, sous le rapport que nous envisageons, c’est à dire qu’il auroit une tendance à pre´venir la hausse des prix, et à combattre le mauvais effet du papier-monnoie.
Mais tout est l’ouvrage de l’imagination dans cette plainte: le fait n’etant pas fonde´, toutes les conse´quences qu’on en deduit tombent d’elles-mêmes.
68. At the present time metallic money is not essential as a deposit against the circulation of paper. The country banks consider themselves as sufficiently secure if they have Bank of England notes, and the Bank of England whilst the restriction bill is in force have no motive to keep metallic money by them,—but every motive to get rid of it. There can be no doubt that paper circulation forces the exportation of the coins.
69. High prices might have been owing to the diminished value of gold as a commodity or of taxation: are not these adequate causes?
70. No doubt it is a good, not an evil.
autre avantage en compensation des [maux de l’excèes].
Une autre branche de profit est celle qui depend de la hausse dans le prix des fonds (c.a.d. des annu¨te´s du Gouvernement) et consiste à faire les emprunts publics à des termes moins desavantageux.
Le prix de ces annu¨te´s aura une tendance à baisser en proportion71 de la quantite´ qui est mise en vente dans un temps donne´ et à hausser en proportion de la quantite´ d’argent qui peut être applique´e à leur achat.
Cet avantage se presente comme accompagne´ d’un desavantage proportionnel: savoir la hausse dans le prix des articles pour l’achat desquels cet argent a e´te´ leve´ par la vente de ces annuïte´s du Gouvernement. L’avantage et le desavantage se presentent d’abord comme se de´truisant l’un l’autre. [Dumont’s note: ‘Very long article, that I have not been able to understand, not even to catch the first meaning—partly for its being very obscure— partly being not legible—partly for want of marginals’].
71. An increase of money will raise the price of commodities but not of the funds or of annuities, because it will not affect the rate of interest, and the rate of interest is paid in the depreciated money. It is however neither of advantage or of disadvantage to Government as though they must raise more money in consequence of the rise of prices,—they pay less real interest though the same nominal amount. The advantage or disadvantage for the future must depend upon the increased or diminished value of the money in which the dividends will be paid.
NOTES ON THE BULLION REPORT AND EVIDENCE
NOTE ON ‘NOTES ON THE BULLION REPORT’
The Notes on The Bullion Report and Evidence printed below were written by Ricardo in September 1810 or shortly after.
The Report of the Bullion Committee had been issued on 12 August 1810 in the official folio edition. Ricardo’s page- references, however, are to the octavo edition, which was published by Johnson and Ridgeway in September. The MS is among Ricardo’s Papers and has been published in Minor Papers on the Currency Question, 1809–1823, ed. by J. H. Hollander, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1932, pp. 45–59.
The MS consists of three parts:
(A) The Notes on the Report, which cover three octavo pages (these Notes begin on the last page of the MS denoted as (C));
(B) The rough Notes on the evidence of Goldsmid, Binns and Merle, which cover two quarto pages;
(C) The systematic Notes on the Minutes of Evidence, which cover twenty-five octavo pages.
While (A) and (C) were certainly written at the same period,(B) may have been written somewhat earlier. Of the three MSS, (A) and (B) are merely jottings, but (C) forms a systematic commentary.
The reference numbers in the MS of the Notes on the Minutes of Evidence (described as (C) above) correspond to numbers written in pencil in Ricardo’s hand on his working copy of the octavo edition of the Bullion Report which is in the Library at Gatcombe.
Although the Notes (C) begin with a comment referring top. 102 of the Minutes of Evidence, it is unlikely that any sheets containing comments on the earlier pages have been lost, since there are no numbers written on those pages in Ricardo’s working copy of the Bullion Report.
Ricardo, in the Notes (C), gives the page reference only for the first of his comments on each witness; subsequent comments, even if referring to later pages, have only a serial number which corresponds with the number pencilled on his copy of the Report.
The plan here adopted in printing the Notes (C) is the same as that used for the Notes on Malthus in Vol. II and for the Notes on Bentham in this volume. The relevant extracts from the Minutes of Evidence are printed in small type at the top of the page (with marginal numbers as marked by Ricardo in the Gatcombe copy) and the corresponding comments in larger type in the lower part. A number of exclamation marks written by Ricardo on the Gatcombe copy of the Report are also printed where he placed them.
To the Notes (A) quotations from the relevant passages of the Bullion Report have been prefixed.
[NOTES ON THE REPORT OF THE BULLION COMMITTEE]
[p. 9.] The Report points out that there have been considerable importations of gold into England from South-America.
The committee seem anxious to prove that there have been considerable importations as well as exportations of gold, but this fact is not in the least material to the principle which they are attempting to support.
[p. 21.] The Report quotes from the evidence of the Continental Merchant: ‘The Exchange against England fluctuating from 15 to 20 per cent. how much of that loss may be ascribed to the effect of the measures taken by the enemy in the North of Germany, and the interruption of intercourse which has been the result, and how much to the effect of the Bank of England paper not being convertible into cash, to which you have ascribed a part of that depreciation?—I ascribe the whole of the depreciation to have taken place originally in consequence of the measures of the enemy; and its not having recovered, to the circumstance of the paper of England not being exchangeable for cash.’
21 It is difficult to believe that the cause here assigned were adequate to produce such an unfavorable exchange as from 15 to 20 pct.: much of it must in the first instance be attributed to the circumstance of Bank of England paper being excessive and not convertible into cash.
[pp. 55–56.] The Report exposes the fallacy of ‘not distinguishing between an advance of capital to Merchants, and an additional supply of currency to the general mass of circulating medium’, under a system of paper currency: ‘In the first instance, when the advance is made by notes paid in discount of a bill, it is undoubtedly so much capital, so much power of making purchases, placed in the hands of the Merchant who receives the notes; and if those hands are safe, the operation is so far, and in this its first step, useful and productive to the public. But as soon as the portion of circulating medium, in which the advance was thus made, performs in the hands of him to whom it was advanced this its first operation as capital, as soon as the notes are exchanged by him for some other article which is capital, they fall into the channel of circulation as so much circulating medium, and form an addition to the mass of currency.’
55 The advance is not useful even in the first instance if the amount of currency have already attained its natural limit. It can only be useful to one merchant in the same degree as it becomes hurtful to another. It enables one to make purchases, but, by the increase of prices, it deprives others of the ability of carrying on the same extent of trade.
[pp. 57–58.] The Report reads: ‘The suspension of Cash payments has had the effect of committing into the hands of the Directors of the Bank of England, to be exercised by their sole discretion, the important charge of supplying the Country with that quantity of circulating medium which is exactly proportioned to the wants and occasions of the Public. In the judgment of the Committee, that is a trust, which it is unreasonable to expect that the Directors of the Bank of England should ever be able to discharge. The most detailed knowledge of the actual trade of the Country, combined with the profound science in all the principles of Money and Circulation, would not enable any man or set of men to adjust, and keep always adjusted, the right proportions of circulating medium in a country to the wants of trade. When the currency consists entirely of the precious metals, or of paper convertible at will into the precious metals, the natural process of commerce, by establishing Exchanges among all the different countries of the world, adjusts, in every particular country, the proportion of circulating medium to its actual occasions, according to that supply of the precious metals which the mines furnish to the general market of the world. The proportion, which is thus adjusted and maintained by the natural operation of commerce, cannot be adjusted by any human wisdom or skill. If the natural system of currency and circulation be abandoned, and a discretionary issue of paper money substituted in its stead, it is vain to think that any rules can be devised for the exact exercise of such a discretion; though some cautions may be pointed out to check and control its consequences, such as are indicated by the effect of an excessive issue upon Exchanges and the price of Gold.’
58. The proportion of currency which can conveniently be maintained in a country where a paper currency not convertible into specie exists can be adjusted by human wisdom and skill, as the Comm̃ee themselves assert in several parts of the report. It is precisely at its proper limit whilst gold does not rise above or fall below the mint price.
[p. 65.] The Report refers to the crisis of 1793: ‘In this crisis, Parliament applied a remedy, very similar, in its effect, to an enlargement of the advances and issues of the Bank; a loan of Exchequer Bills was authorized to be made to as many mercantile persons, giving good security, as should apply for them; and the confidence which this measure diffused, as well as the increased means which it afforded of obtaining Bank Notes through the sale of the Exchequer Bills, speedily relieved the distress both of London and of the country.’
65. If the Bank had been more liberal in their discounts at that period, they would have produced the same effect on general credit as was afterwards done by the issues of Exchr. bills. It would appear that the bank would buy the exchr. bills but would not discount the merchants bills,—or rather they would not advance money to the merchants without the guarantee of Parliament. If the bank bought the bills it was then by an increase of circulating medium that public credit was ultimately relieved. If the public and not the bank purchased the bills then was a portion of the circulating medium of the country which had been withdrawn from circulation again brought forth by the credit of government being pledged for the parties requiring relief.
Perhaps after all that confidence was on the point of being restored at the very moment that recourse was had to this boasted measure.
[ROUGH NOTES ON THE FIRST PART OF THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE]
Aaron Asher Goldsmid. This gentleman’s evidence is very clear and explicit, both with regard to the price of gold, and the manner in which the bargains are executed. He stated, that, for these last 15 months, he had bought and sold more gold than on an average of years.
The chief imports of gold from the West Indies; principally from Jamaica. Spanish and Portugal coin have an extrinsic value as coin,—but French gold coin has not.
Does not this admission prove that it is not in consequence of our importations of corn from France that gold is greatly in demand, as if that were the case French gold coin would be particularly sought: of all gold that would be the best remittance. Yet Mr. G. believes that it is return for corn from France and Flanders that gold is exported:—The largest quantity sent to Holland. Does not think that the quantity of gold exported considerably exceeded, in the last twelve months, the quantity imported. Has not any idea that the increase or decrease of Bank notes has any connection with the rise or fall of the price of gold,—but acknowledges that he has paid no attention to it. If a person were at liberty to export English Gold, he certainly would get 16 pct. more than if he exported foreign gold.
Mr. Binns— has frequently bought light guineas for which he has given not quite so much as 23 shillings
Mr. Merle— has declined buying light guineas, as he thinks it contrary to law to give more than the coinage price for them; he has no doubt that the cause of the disappearance of guineas from circulation, [is] the high price of Gold Bullion and the temptation to export it on acct. of the high price. He does not think that the increase of Bank notes has had any effect on the price of gold,—but confesses that he has never made any observation on it, nor considered the subject generally. He never thought of considering what effect a large issue of Bank notes might have on the price of gold. He allowed that if there were no legal restrictions against melting guineas, he should consider paper as of less value than specie,—it would make a difference of 10/- an ounce
[NOTES ON THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE] MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Taken before the Select Committee appointed to enquire into the Cause of the High Price of Gold Bullion, and to take into consideration the State of the Circulating Medium, and of the Exchanges between Great Britain and Foreign Parts.
Jovis, 8° die Martii, 1810.
Mr.—, a Continental Merchant, again called in, and Examined.
[pp. 102–103.] In what way do you think the present issue of bank notes and country bankers paper would operate to reduce the rate of exchange, supposing the balance of trade to be in favour of this Country?—The greater the issue, the more the exchange would be lowered; and supposing that a scarcity of the circulating medium of this Country existed, the higher the exchange would be. Independent of this direct effect, a reduction of the circulating medium would also have that of lowering the1 prices of every article, and thus increase the facility and extent of their export.
That in consequence of an increase of bank notes in circulation, and articles of merchandize being raised in price, that the2 exports are less than they otherwise would be, and in that way the operation on the exchanges is to our disadvantage?—Yes, in as far as there is any competition in trade between this and other countries.
Admitting that by an increase or decrease of the quantity of paper in circulation the prices of merchandize are increased and decreased, and the exportation greater or less, and that the exchange is of consequence indirectly affected; will you explain more particularly the direct operation of an excess of paper currency on the exchange?—An increase of the circulating medium enables persons to make greater advances to foreigners, and more3 bills are thus brought into the foreign market; this must have the effect of lowering the exchange. Should, on the contrary, a scarcity of money exist here, it would become desirable to realize and accelerate the payment of debts due to this Country; advances now readily made to them would from necessity be curtailed, and the foreigner, who required a bill on this country, would be obliged to pay a higher price for that which was scarce than if it were abundant. The importations, from the same causes, would be curtailed; and the desire to raise money by sending a greater quantity of goods abroad, would be increased. However great the inconvenience to individuals, I conceive that a very material reduction of the circulating medium in this Country (by which I do not mean to make any distinction between coin and paper) would have the immediate effect of raising the exchange so far above par as to enable foreigners to send Bullion to this Country for the liquidation of their debt, provided this principle were carried to such an extremity.
[p. 103.] Supposing a diminution of the paper of Great Britain to take place, or an expectation of such diminution generally to prevail, would not the following effect follow; would not those English merchants who now trade on borrowed capital, and order goods from abroad on their own account, with a view to importation hither, or invite consignments from abroad by4 offering to make large advances on the credit of them, curtail their orders and limit the extent of their advances, in consequence of their anticipating increasing difficulty in providing the means of payment; would not this conduct on their part lessen the quantity of drafts drawn upon them, and thus affect the balance of payments, and would not this alteration in the balance of payments tend to improve the British exchange?—I perfectly agree in the effect of the positions placed in the foregoing question, as I tried to explain in my preceding answer.
[p. 104.] In the case supposed [the circulating medium consisting almost exclusively of paper], will not the same general advance of prices in England, which you state an augmentation of5 paper to produce, operate as a discouragement to the exportation of English articles so long as the exchange shall remain the same, which shall be assumed to be at par?—Yes, certainly; but it is an assumption which, in my opinion, could never take place in fact.
[p. 105.] Then if the exchange was affected solely by the balance, the payments of exchanges with the North of Europe at this moment ought, according to the information on which you6 have formed your judgment, to have been in favour of England? —If that were the only cause that influenced the exchange, it is my opinion, that the exchange would have been in favour of England for some time past.
[p. 106.] Do you not conceive that without a free importation of the coin of the country, a diminution in the amount of its currency would produce a fall in the price of all commodities, and a consequent rise of the exchange, in the same proportion as if that diminution of currency had been effected by the export of a part of our coin?—I should suppose it could only have one-half7 the effect.
[p. 107.] You have stated, that the exchange has been greatly in our favour since the restriction on the Bank, and that the balance of payments then due to England was in consequence liquidated by great importations of Bullion into this Country; you have also stated, that in your opinion, the balance of payments is now in our favour; explain to the Committee to what cause you ascribe the difference in the exchange between those two periods, in each of which you conceive the balance of payments to be in our favour?—At the period of the suspension, the situation of the trade of this Country was very favourable to it: the stock of goods on hand, and which were required by the Continent, was very great; public opinion here in favour of the measure empowering the Bank to withhold cash payments was such, that for some time no traffic at home was carried on between this paper and coin: while the balance of trade therefore continued in favour of this country, the foreigner could only liquidate his debt by sending Bullion. Had the re-exportation8 been allowed, a very small proportion of such exportation would have been sufficient to keep the exchange at near par; or even the public opinion would have fixed it at that rate, if it were ascertained that such operations could take place when required. This not being the case, and some extraordinary causes (as explained) having taken place, that depressed the exchange, and coin being withheld both from internal circulation and from its operation with foreign countries, I conceive this to be the cause of an unfavourable rate of exchange during a period of a favourable balance of trade. In fact, the foundation by which what is called a par of exchange is fixed, no longer exists as matter of fact.
Veneris, 9° die Martii, 1810.
John Whitmore, Esq. the Governor of the Bank of England, John Pearse, Esq. Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, called in together; and Examined.
[p. 112.] Let me suppose a case in which no demands were made upon the Bank by Government for unusual accommodations, but an unusual demand was made by merchants for increased facilities of discount; would the Bank in such a case consider itself as bound, in order to support public credit, to grant that increase of discounts, although there was a run upon it for Gold, occasioned by the high price of Bullion and the unfavourable state of the exchange?—I desire time to consider that question.
Supposing the Bank to be now paying in cash, and to experience a drain of Gold, as just mentioned; and supposing them also to afford precisely the same sum in the way of loan as before; would not a diminution of their paper take place, which would be proportionate to that diminution of their stock of guineas which the drain would occasion, inasmuch as every person coming to demand guineas would give in exchange for them an equal quantity of bank notes, which would be cancelled?—I would wish for time to consider that question.
Is there not reason to suspect that the present unfavourable state of the exchange may be in part owing to the want of that limitation of paper which used to take place before the suspension of the cash payments of the Bank, on the occasion of the exchanges becoming unfavourable?—My opinion is, I do not know whether it is that of the Bank, that the amount of our paper circulation has no reference at all to the state of the exchange.
Has that question ever been brought to a regular discussion and decision in the Court of Directors?—In the opinion of the Bank Directors, it had not sufficient bearing upon our concerns to make it more than a matter of conversation; it never was singly and separately a subject of discussion, though constantly in view with other circumstances.
Mr. Pearse.—The varying prices of the Hamburgh exchange compared with the varying amount of Bank notes at different periods, seem to prove that the amount of Bank notes in circulation has not1 had an influence on the exchange.
[p. 114.] Whether, since the suspension of the payments in cash down to the present time, there has been any material extension2 of commercial discounts?—I wish to have time to consider that question.
Lunae, 12° die Martii, 1810. Abraham Goldsmid, Esq. called in, and Examined.
[p. 120.] Does not the present low rate of exchange create1 the demand and the high price of Bullion?—The present high price of Bullion is on account of the low rate of exchange.
[p. 121.] Is it your opinion that the circulating medium, as entirely confined to paper in this country, produces any effect upon foreign exchanges?—I do not profess myself competent to2 give my opinion upon that.
Martis, 13° die Martii, 1810.
John Whitmore, Esq. the Governor, and John Pearse, Esq. the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, called in together; and Examined.
[p. 124.] Supposing the currency of any country to consist altogether of specie, would that specie be affected in its value by its abundance or by its diminution, the same as copper, brass, cloth, or any other article of merchandize?—I have already said1 that I decline answering questions as to opinion; I am very ready to answer any questions as to matters of fact; I have not opinions formed upon the points stated in this and the preceding question sufficiently matured to offer them to the Committee.
[p. 125.] You stated in a former examination, “Supposing the excess of the market price of Gold in Bank notes above the mint price to be 5 per cent. and that in consequence a drain of guineas takes place from the Bank, and the Bank, by diminishing the amount of its outstanding demands, raises the value of its paper 5 per cent.,” in the manner described in a former answer of yours, would not the result be to bring the market and the mint price of Gold to a par, and consequently to put a stop to the demand for guineas?
Mr. Whitmore.—I believe my former answer did not go to the Bank raising the price of their notes, for in fact, if the Bank was to2 raise the value of them, and give them for discounts, estimating them at such increased value, it would incur the penalty of usury. I therefore conceive this statement to suppose a case that cannot occur.
In taking into consideration the amount of your notes out in circulation, and in limiting the extent of your discounts to merchants, do you advert to the difference, when such exists, between the market and the mint price of Gold?—We do advert to that, inasmuch as we do not discount, at any time, for those persons who we know or have good reason to suppose export the Gold.
Mercurii, 14° die Martii, 1810. John Louis Greffulhe, Esq. was Examined.
[p. 130.] Is it not your opinion that, if no forced paper circulation existed in the Country, it would not be possible for the exchanges to fall materially below their par, or for the price of Bullion to rise materially above its standard price?—I conceive1 that that would not prevent the exchange from falling very considerably under par, if the amount of Bullion in the Country were not sufficient to pay the balances.
William Cecil Chambers, Esq. called in, and Examined.
1 [pp. 136–137.] What do you say as to an excessive currency, though not forced?—I do not conceive the thing possible.
What do you mean by a forced paper currency?—A paper which I am obliged to take against my will for more than its value; it is not forced so long as people take it willingly, which they will naturally do whilst undepreciated.
Mr. Chambers like those who have given their evidence before him ascribes the unfavorable exchange to the balance of payments being against us,—allows that a forced paper circulation would depress the exchange, but contends that the Bank of England cannot force a circulation; he does not conceive Gold to be a fairer standard for Bank of England notes than Indigo or broad cloth!!!
It has been contended, by some intelligent men, that in the year 1797 when there was a run upon the Bank for specie, —that the Directors would have upheld public credit and have put a stop to the demand for guineas by increasing their discounts, rather than by diminishing them. I am of opinion that the run upon the Bank in 1797 proceeded from political alarm, and a desire on the part of the people to hoard guineas. I was myself witness of many persons actually exchanging bank notes for guineas for such purpose,—therefore it is probable that the Bank could not have prevented the stoppage of payments to which they were obliged to have re- course. But a demand upon the bank for specie from fears of the solidity of its resources, or from political alarm, are very different from a demand arising from a high price of bullion and a low rate of exchange and must be differently treated. In the latter case it can proceed only from an excessive issue of paper, if the gold coin is not debased and can only be checked by calling in the excess. In 1797 the exchange was at 38 with Hamburgh and gold bullion at £3. 17. 6.—In 1810 the exchange is at 29 and gold bullion at £4. 13—
If the notes of the Bank of England in circulation are employed in making payments of above 1500 millions, and only a part of the Bank of England paper is available for that purpose as a great proportion is wanted for deposits by the county bankers,—does it not follow that the proportion of Bank notes to actual payments is exceedingly small? If the daily and bona fide payments exceed 5 millions,—and if we suppose what is barely possible such payments were made by bills of exchange payable at 60 days might not the bank contending as they do that by discounting bills given for real transactions they can never produce an issue of notes be called upon to discount bills in 60 days to the enormous amount of 300 millions?
Veneris, 16° die Martii, 1810.
John Whitmore, Esq. the Governor, and John Pearse, Esq. the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, called in together; and Examined.
[pp. 152–153.] Suppose a case in which no demands were made upon the Bank by Government for unusual accommodations, but an unusual demand was made by merchants for increased facilities of discount, would the Bank in such a case consider itself as bound, in order to support public credit, to grant that increase of discounts, although there was a run upon it for Gold occasioned by the high price of Bullion and the unfavourable state of the exchange?—I now consider my answer as my own opinion, not having the opportunity of consulting the Bank upon the question; in my opinion the Bank would not increase1 their discounts, nor on the other hand would it, I think, after the experience of the years 1796 and 1797, do well materially to diminish them.
Veneris, 23° die Martii, 1810.
John Whitmore, Esq. the Governor, and John Pearse, Esq. the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, called in together; and Examined.
[p. 176.] Taking the daily average amount [of payments made by all the London bankers put together] so low as five millions, does it not follow that in the course of the year the notes of the Bank of England in circulation are employed in making payments of above 1,500,000,000 sterling, on the counters of the London bankers alone?—According to the opinion that I entertain, it will amount to that.
Taking into consideration the quantity of Bank of England paper necessary for country bankers, and the various other uses and applications for which it is demanded, does it not follow that there is only a certain limited proportion of the total amount of Bank of England paper in circulation, available for effecting the payment of this 1,500 million?—It is only part of the circulation that is available for such purpose.
Veneris, 30° die Martii, 1810.
John Whitmore, Esq. the Governor, and John Pearse, Esq. the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, called in together; and Examined.
[pp. 184–185.] Does not the unfavourable course of exchange with foreign countries tend, even under the present restriction, in some degree to render its continuance and prolongation necessary, in so far as that necessity may depend on the proportion of specie in the coffers of the Bank to the amount of its notes in circulation?
Mr. Whitmore.—In my opinion the high price of Gold bullion abroad, does make it necessary to continue the restriction; but I have already observed, that the low state of exchange has not operated before the restriction to drain us of our guineas to any1 material extent.
Mr. Pearse.—Undoubtedly it does, as far as regards the supply of the public wants with a circulating medium, as it would not be possible for the Bank to continue that supply if the Restriction Bill were removed, whilst the foreign exchanges remain so unfavourable as at present; a profit of from ten to fifteen, to twenty per-cent. upon converting Guineas into bullion, would be too great a temptation to allow any to remain in the Bank, as long as a bank note remained in circulation. The Bank would therefore inevitably be driven to the necessity of calling in its notes, or in2 other words of reducing its advances on bills, &c. which would produce that distress which the Restriction Bill was passed to prevent.
[p. 186.] Suppose the measure to be determined upon by Parliament, of the opening of the Bank at a distant period, should you think that in the event of the exchanges continuing the same or nearly the same, some restriction of the Bank issues ought to take place with a view to prepare for the opening?...
Mr. Pearse.—In the contemplation of the removal of the Restriction Bill at any definite period, it would become necessary for the Bank to regulate the amount of its issues, with a reference to the course of exchange with foreign countries; but while that 3 exchange continues unfavourable (an event as arising out of the balance of payments not within the control or influence of the Bank) I cannot see that any regulation within the means of the Bank, would in the event of an opening, effectually preclude the risk of a demand for specie being then made for the purpose of profit in exporting it to the Continent.
[pp. 187–188.] Do you conceive that a very considerable reduction of the amount of the circulating medium, would not tend in any degree to increase its relative value compared with commodities, and that a considerable increase of it would have no tendency whatever to augment the price of commodities in exchange4 for such circulating medium?—It is a subject on which such a variety of opinions are entertained, I do not feel myself competent to give a decided answer.
In your examination of the 21st inst. you state, that an excess of country bank paper can only obtain when issued otherwise than as representing securities arising out of real transactions, and payable at fixed and not distant periods; and yet, in your examination of the 23d, you state, that this paper must always circulate at par, or it would return upon the parties that issue it; can there then be any permanent excess of country bank paper while it is so exchangeable?—In my answer of the 21st of March, I adverted to the causes which might be productive of an excess in the issues of country bank paper: in my answer of the 23d, I meant to allude to the consequences which must inevitably, in my opinion, result from the existence of such an excess. It is certainly possible, were it important in amount, that the country banks, by not regulating their issues on the principle of the Bank of England, might send forth a superabundance of their notes; but this excess, in my opinion, would no sooner exist in any material degree, than it would be corrected by its own operation, for the holders of such paper would immediately return it to the issuers, when they found that in consequence of the over issue its value was reduced or likely to be reduced below par: thus,5 though the balance might be slightly and transiently disturbed, no considerable or permanent over issue could possibly take place, as from the nature of things the amount of Bank notes in circulation must always find its level in the public wants.
[pp. 188–189.] If, however, he [the foreigner] receives £.100 in Bank notes, and is under the necessity of going to market for Bullion, will he the foreigner not rate his goods twenty per cent. higher, the difference in the price between them; and will he not invoice his goods twenty per cent. higher to his correspondent6 accordingly? [Mr. Whitmore]—I cannot contemplate a trade where the invoices are made out with reference to the price of Bullion.
If this were the case, what prospect should we have of a rise in the price of the exchange?—Never having weighed the subject7 with any reference to the price of Bullion, I am not prepared with an opinion how a merchant would act in such a case.
Lunae, 2° die Aprilis, 1810. William Coningham, Esq. called in and Examined.
[p. 190.] It appears from your evidence before the Irish Exchange Committee in the year 1804, that you were of opinion that the paper currency of Ireland was then depreciated, and that this depreciation was the cause of the unfavourable state of the exchange between England and Ireland; are you of opinion that that paper is still depreciated, and if so, to what circumstance do you8 ascribe the improvement in the exchange between the two Countries?—I think it is still depreciated, but in a very inconsiderable degree compared with what it was in the year 1804: and I am inclined to think, that the cause of the depreciation being so much less now than it was at the period alluded to is, that there is greater confidence in the paper than there was at that time; and therefore the people take it with more freedom, and of course consider it of more value.
8 He does not consider it so much depreciated as formerly because on a comparison with Bank of England paper it is now nearly at par. which it was not then. To me it is evident that the value of Bank of Ireland paper has not been raised to the value which Bank of England paper then bore, but that the value of Bank of England paper has been sunk to that of Bank of Ireland paper, and that therefore they are now both depreciated.
Mercurii, 4° die Aprilis, 1810. Sir Francis Baring, Bart. called in, and Examined.
[p. 195.] Would not the removal of the restrictions upon1 trade diminish the price of bullion?—The removal of the restrictions upon trade would produce an exportation of merchandize, and facilitate the means of importing bullion.
[p. 196.] Are you not aware that the issuing of notes under five pounds has increased materially the whole amount of notes issued; and do you not believe that the amount of small notes should be left out of the account in comparing the present amount of notes in circulation with that existing at the period you have alluded to [previous to 1797]?—The small notes are equally paper, and they add to the mass of Bank notes before in circulation; they issue in the same manner in exchange for public or2 private securities: Instead of being left out in a comparative view, I fear they rather tend to increase the difficulty more than their due proportion, because they cannot be withdrawn without an issue of specie to an equal amount, and therefore stand in the front of the battle.
[pp. 198–199.] Do you conceive that the Bank of England will effectually guard against the possibility of any excess in the circulation of the country (as well their own as the paper of country banks) if they regulate their issues by the demand for discounts of good bills founded on real mercantile transactions, as the occasions of the Public may appear to require?—It has been ascertained by long experience, that wherever paper has circulated under the power and influence of Government on the Continent, it has failed. The paper of the Bank of England has stood firm for above a century, and flourishes at this moment with unabated confidence. The power reposed in the Bank is great; their paper is the basis on which the best interests of the Country rest; it is the seed which serves to produce the whole of its commerce, finance, agricultural improvements, &c. &c. Such a power may remain with safety, so long as the Bank is liable to discharge their notes in specie, because that circumstance constitutes a complete counteraction to any disposition (if it should be entertained) to increase the circulation beyond a reasonable and safe limit, and, under that circumstance, things (foreign exchanges,3 &c.) will find their proper level.... I consider the opinionentertained by some persons, that the Bank ought to regulate their issues by the public demand, as dangerous in the extreme, because I know by experience, that the demand for speculation can only be limited by a want of means; and I think the Bank would not be disposed to extend their issues beyond three-fourth parts of its present amount, if the restriction was removed....
Mr. Tritton’s evidence generally is very cautious,—he appears not to have paid much attention to the subject of currency, and the effects produced on it by London and country Banks.
Page 218, 219
Mr. Harman thinks that the diminution of the paper of the Bank, would, neither immediately or remotely, tend to an improvement of the exchange.
In his answer to a subsequent question he allows that an augmentation of the quantity of Bank of England notes tends to raise the prices of commodities.
It therefore follows that a diminution of the quantity of Bank notes would lower the prices of commodities;—but if prices were considerably lowered and the exchange were not affected, this real fall in their price would not fail to en- courage foreign purchasers. But such purchases according to the principles of those who are for ascribing every effect on the exchange to the balance of trade, would speedily turn the balance in our favor or at least render the present balance less unfavorable and would therefore indirectly raise the exchange. It is to be regretted that the Committee did not press Mr. Harman for some explanation of these opinions which might have been proved so inconsistent.
Lunae, 9° die Aprilis, 1810.
[pp. 213–18.] John Henton Tritton, Esq. a Partner in the Banking-House of Barclay & Co., called in, and Examined.
[p. 218.] Jeremiah Harman, Esq. Director of the Bank of England and General Merchant, called in, and Examined.
[p. 219.] Do you conceive that the diminution of the paper of the Bank would, either immediately or remotely, tend to an2 improvement of the exchange?—None whatever.
Was it not the practice of the Bank, antecedently to the restriction of the cash payments, to lessen in some degree the amount of its issues, when a material demand for guineas was made upon3 it?—It has been occasionally, and at one period in particular, according to my view of the subject, it accelerated very much the mischief which ensued.
[pp. 219–220.] Supposing the Parliament to enact that the Bank of England should again pay in Gold at a distant period, say one, two or three years, would it be your opinion that the Bank ought to resort to the measure of restraining its issues, as a means of preparing itself to meet that event, supposing the exchanges and the price of Bullion to continue as they now are?—I conceive4 that they must necessarily, if the exchanges were to continue as they now are, which, however, I deem barely within possibility.
[p. 220.] Do you not apprehend that there is a disposition in persons keeping accounts at the Bank, to apply for a larger extent of discount than it is on the whole expedient for the Bank to grant?—Very many do, and we treat them accordingly.
Do you not think that the sum total applied for, even though the accommodation afforded should be on the security of good bills to safe persons, might be such as to produce some excess in the quantity of the Bank issues if fully complied with?—I think if we discount only for solid persons, and such paper as is for real bonâ fide transactions, we cannot materially err.
Supposing you were to afford your accommodation at four per cent. instead of five per cent. interest, the current interest being five per cent., would there not be danger of excess?— Perhaps so.5
Does it not then follow, that, provided money is now worth something more than five per cent., and being in general difficult to be procured at that rate, you may fall into some excess by granting it at five per cent. on the principle which you have stated?—I think not, because we should discover the superabundance6 very soon.
What should you consider the test of that superabundance?— Money being more plentiful in the market.7
[p. 221.] Supposing the exchange to continue long and greatly unfavourable, should you not be disposed to refer this circumstance in some measure to an excess of paper currency, or should you assume that the balance of trade had continued during8 that long period unfavourable?—I must very materially alter my opinions, before I can suppose that the exchanges will be influenced by any modifications of our paper currency.
Have you ever known the exchange to fall to twelve or fifteen per cent. in any part of Europe, in which it was computed in coin9 containing a fixed quantity of gold or silver, or in paper or bank money exchanged at a fixed agio, either for such gold or silver coin, or for gold or silver bullion of a definite amount?—I really cannot from recollection answer that question.
Mr. Richardson’s evidence is full of information with respect to the details of money transactions in London as well as in the country. He proves most satisfactorily that there have been of late years great improvements in the way of economising the use of Bank notes which renders the same amount of notes effective for an enlarged commerce: He was asked whether he thought that ten millions of Bank notes would keep afloat the same quantity of business as fifteen millions would have done ten years ago. His answer was, “Not quite so much perhaps ten years ago”. It must however be admitted that a considerable saving in the use of notes has been effected.
Martis, 22° die Maji, 1810.
[pp. 228–31.]Thomas Richardson, Esq. again called in, and Examined.
NOTES ON TROTTER’S ‘PRINCIPLES OF CURRENCY AND EXCHANGES’
NOTE ON ‘NOTES ON TROTTER’
Trotter’s pamphlet attacking the Bullion Report appeared anonymously under the title The Principles of Currency and Exchanges applied to the Report from the Select Committee of the House of Commons Appointed to Inquire into the High Price of Gold Bullion, &c. &c., London, ‘Printed and sold by W. Winchester and Son’, 79 pp., dated on the title-page ‘Dec. 1, 1810’. Coutts Trotter, the author, was a partner in the banking house of Thomas Coutts & Co.
Ricardo’s comments were probably written in December 1810 or soon after.
The MS of Ricardo’s Notes, which is among Ricardo’s Papers, covers seventeen octavo pages. Each comment begins with a page-reference to Trotter’s pamphlet; when there are two or more comments referring to the same page, they are given progressive numbers. This suggests that (as in the case of his Notes on the Bullion Report and also of his Notes on Bentham) Ricardo wrote corresponding numbers on his working copy of the pamphlet; but no such copy has been found.
In the text printed below quotations from, or summaries of, the relevant passages of Trotter’s pamphlet have been prefixed to Ricardo’s Notes.
[NOTES ON TROTTER’S ‘PRINCIPLES OF CURRENCY AND EXCHANGES’]
[p. 7.] In the course of a brief sketch of the origins of money Trotter says that in England the goldsmiths’ notes were of the same value as the precious metals, so long as those who issued them were ‘capable of fulfilling’ their contracts.
Page 7. And obliged
[p. 12.] In the preceding pages Trotter has considered the functions of money.
12 Up to this page there is not a word with which I do not agree.
[p. 13.] There ‘is a limitation and an insuperable one, to the quantity of money in any given state of society’: ‘the aggregate of the sum, in gold, in silver, and in paper engagements, in each person’s pocket or house, will, in every state of such society, form the total of, and be the limit to, the currency of the country.’
13 Whilst money is not depreciated, and the nominal prices of commodities not raised. If with payments to the amount of 100 millions 10 millions be sufficient for circulation, no more than that sum will be used, unless the money be depreciated in value. The payments may by depreciation of money be increased to 200 millions nominally; in such case 20 millions of the depreciated money will be required for circulation.
[p. 14.] There is, therefore, an absolute security against redundancy of currency, since in every case ‘the check of a saturated circulation interposes; and the least excess beyond the wants of the public, estimated by each individual for himself, flows back upon the Bank of England or the country banker who occasions it.’
14 A circulation can never be so saturated as to [be]
incapable of admitting more. Before the discovery of America the same portion of commerce which now requires three millions of money was carried on (confidence[,] credit, and the economy introduced by banking being supposed the same) by one million. The currency is no more saturated with 3 millions now than it was with one then. It might as reasonably be contended that the two millions would flow back to the mine which produced it, as that the notes of the Bank of England, under the present system should flow back to the issuers.
[p. 15.] When a country banker increases his issues of notes ‘the range of this bank...which is confined to the circle in which the partners are known, are observed, and are trusted, becomes filled with their notes to the extent of the former circulation of metals...; and gold, no longer wanted here, but still possessing qualities of universal attraction, finds its way to other districts, and finally to other countries. This done, the measure is full; the banker can, by no assiduity or skill, force upon his neighbourhood more of his notes than there was before of specie...; should he attempt to do so, they will return incessantly upon him, and he will be called upon for their value in what is of universal, not of local, request; that is, will be called upon for gold, or for Bank of England notes’.
[p. 17.] There is consequently no need to feel anxious about the restriction of cash payments by the Bank of England, for ‘the circulation even of this apparently unfettered establishment is limited: its managers cannot induce the population within their sphere to carry in their pockets, or hoard in their bureaus, more of bank-notes than each man anticipates the want of for his own purposes.’
17 This would be true if the notes retained their value, but when abundant their value sinks, and a greater amount becomes necessary for the same amount of trade and commerce.
[p. 19.] In particular, the discount of bills, as one of the modes which the Bank employs for diffusing its notes, can never lead to an excessive issue, for ‘it is evident that the whole of the bills so discounted and transferred into the hands of the Bank will become due in two months, that they will then be sent out for payment, and that as many notes will be received by the Bank in their discharge, and be thus withdrawn from circulation, as were issued by that body at the time of their discount.’
19 The correctness of these arguments depend entirely on the fact of the paper retaining its value,—they take for granted the subject in dispute. There is no question that the effects would be as here stated, if the paper did not whilst it was abundant cause depreciation. (See page 15)
[p. 21.] A paper currency is infinitely preferable to gold, ‘which, depending on foreign influences, is liable to be often inconveniently reduced, and sometimes to be almost annihilated (as we now see it is) by our foreign exchanges turning against us.’
21 1. Impossible if not forced out by paper.
[pp. 20–21.] Whenever an unusual number of notes has been thrown into circulation, as it happens for instance at the quarterly payments of the public dividends, the immediate effect is to reduce the demand made to the Bank of England for issues upon discounting bills: ‘At such times the depositories of mercantile men being overcharged with banknotes, the owners seek for productive employment of the excess in discounting bills;... Exactly, therefore, by so much as the excess of its notes in the hands of the public at any moment amounts to, the Bank will immediately be abridged of its usual power of diffusion.’
 2. This is true if applied to a short period. Between the moment of the overissues of notes and their depreciation, there will necessarily be something like a glut of money in the market, but as soon as depreciation takes place, there is no longer a redundancy of money.
[pp. 23–24.] Trotter quotes the admission of the Bullion Report ‘that a part [of the small notes issued since the restriction of cash payments] must be considered as being introduced to supply the place of the specie which was deficient at the period of suspending cash-payments’; to this he objects that ‘this admission is evidently insufficient. In considering what void is filled up by small notes, our concern is not with the degree of deficiency of gold at the time of suspension, but with the actual amount of the void at this moment, after thirteen years of great waste by melting and exportation.’
24 1 This is perfectly a correct way of stating it, and should have been adhered to in Page 50.
[p. 24.] ‘Now, so far from a part of this new description of notes being sufficient, the whole of it is unequal to supply the decrease of specie in the last thirteen years’.
 2 May not small notes to any requisite amount be obtained at the Bank in exchange for large notes?
[p. 25.] Trotter’s conclusion on this point is ‘that the whole of the excess (if there be any) of Bank of England paper is to be found in the class of notes which are above the value of five pounds’.
25. 1. Perfectly correct
[p. 25.] Trotter then estimates that ‘the mixed circulation of London before 1797, in gold and Bank of England notes, could not be less than sixteen millions and a half.’
 2 Certainly not so much, or the present circulation could not be depreciated.
[pp. 25–26.] ‘It is now twenty millions, exclusive of the small portion of gold which yet remains, being an increase of about one- fourth.
‘But in the same period has there been no change whatever in the condition of society? has there been no addition to the population within the sphere of the Bank’s circulation? has there been no greater number of commercial transactions to adjust, or larger public revenue to remit into the Exchequer? In each of these, singly, I think I see almost a sufficient demand to draw forth the additional sum in dispute’.
26 1. Has the trade increased a fourth as well as the money, if not the increase of money is excessive.
2 Taxation does not require any addition of money, or if any so little as not to be worth computing
[p. 26.] Another circumstance involves an increased use for notes: ‘Above seven hundred country banks, which formerly held in gold the sum which they deemed it prudent to keep as a deposit in their command, now retain that portion in Bank of England paper, thus attracting a great permanent issue of bank-notes to districts to which they never reached before.’
 3 No; they have deposits of Exchequer bills in London, and have very few Bank of England notes. There is no temptation to exchange country bank notes for any thing but bills on London. See Mr. Stuckey’s evidence Bullion Rept.
[pp. 27–28.] Trotter reverts to the increase of wealth during the period after the restriction of cash payments: ‘Not only there are more considerable merchants, more bankers, more agents, more dealers in every species of property, in the period under consideration; but each man’s transactions are numerically and actually increased.’
‘He has, in most instances, more rent to pay, more taxes, and more for the purchase of most articles of consumption; while, on the other hand, there is an equal increase in his receipts. In the upper ranks of society, except to those who unfortunately have only fixed incomes, there are every where increased rents of land, increased profits of trade; while, in the lower ranks, there are increased wages in every employment.’
27 1 Much is owing to depreciation
28 1 Caused by the depreciation of the currency. If money were depreciated 50 pct., the wages of labour would rise, and the same argument might be used. The point in dispute is constantly taken for granted.
[p. 28.] ‘I think I have shown the existence of a restricting principle in our nature and habits, which, by limiting the quantity of money in every man’s pocket or possession to the amount he finds necessary for his daily exchanges, limits, by consequence, the whole circulation of the realm.’
 2 This principle limits the proportion of the value of money to the value of goods, but does not limit its absolute quantity.
[p. 29.] Trotter objects to the assertion of Bullion Committee that the only adequate provision against an excess of paper- currency is the convertibility of all paper into specie, which he shows to be a practical impossibility: ‘If, in times of the greatest abundance of specie, the public, from any cause, had called upon the Bank, and upon every country banker, for the sum declared in their notes to be held on the usual condition of repayment on demand, the Bank of England and the country banker must have been alike incapable of fulfilling the letter of their engagements.’
29 1 Of this the Committee were aware. The check against excess is convertibility of paper into gold whenever its value became less than gold coin. There never could be any temptation to demand gold coin for all the notes in circulation, unless the bank should lose all credit with the public.
This is not the case at present, and is a danger against which no human prudence can wholly guard us.
[pp. 29–30.] ‘The actual degree of convertibility of paper before the Restriction Act’ was excessive in ordinary times and insufficient in periods of popular alarm. ‘The truth is, as the times become more secure, and more confidence prevails, there will always be a greater proportion of paper’.
30 1 This is no argument against the fact of an over- issue of paper.
[p. 30.] If paper ‘is not convertible into gold, is it therefore of no value? is there nothing of intrinsic worth into which those who are fearful of its security may convert it in the temporary absence of this one article? Yes, into every thing that men desire, or that gold can purchase’.
 2 All this is allowed but it is contended that it cannot be exchanged for so much of those things which man desires, or as gold can purchase, as it would do under a better system. We do not say that paper currency is good for nothing but that it is not so good as it would and ought to be.
[pp. 31–32.] ‘Why should we be thus tenacious of payment in gold, which the next moment it would be our business not to hoard or to enjoy, but again to send forth in purchase of some one or other of these very objects we now so much set at nought?... Although, in theoretical discussions, we are pleased with a supposed power of calling for our debts in the precious metals, it is obviously impossible to exercise that power to any extent.’
31 It is not fair to charge us with wanting gold; we contend that we should not want it nor take it, if we could get it. We wish only to have the right to obtain it as an effectual security against the depreciation of our property.
32 1 We have no childish affection for gold more than for paper. Not a complaint would be heard if the paper was not depreciated.
[p. 32.] ‘Had the paper part of our currency retained its value only by its convertibility into gold, it must have fallen gradually for the last twenty years; during which time the proportion it contains of the precious metals has been declining. In the last ten years, it ought, by this rule, to have fallen above a half; and, judging by the power of conversion it now possesses, a bank-note of one pound ought not to be worth five shillings; yet we see our notes retaining their original credit, commanding every article at their original value, and exchanging for our coin itself in every transaction in which they meet.’
 2 We do not complain of any fall in the value of paper which it suffers in common with gold, but of that fall over and above that which gold sustains.
3 It is not correct to say that they command every article at their original value. Our complaint is that they do not.
[pp. 32–33.] ‘The truth appears to be, that all excess of paper-currency is restrained by the causes we have stated; and its convertibility into gold, in a very small degree, is sufficient for convenience, as well as for preserving it from depreciation.’
33. 1 This is our argument.
[p. 33.] Trotter sums up the conclusions so far attained:
‘That there is no excess in the paper circulation of the country;
‘That there is a sufficient check and control over the issues of paper from the Bank of England and from country banks; and
‘That the currency of the country is in no degree depreciated by the use of paper.’
 2 All these conclusions are without proof.
[p. 34.] It is true that the currency in England has lost some part of its value. This is due, first to gold itself having lost a part of its value, compared with commodities, throughout Europe: ‘Let us put the saddle on the right horse, and not blame paper for a fault which is, in part, ascribable to gold itself.’
34 But let us fairly state how much is owing to one cause, how much to the other.
[p. 35.] Secondly, to the increase of population: ‘In a country insulated as ours now is, by political as well as natural circumstances, every increase of population must make an increase in the demand for all the articles which land and industry produce. To raise the former, worse soils and more unfavourable situations must be taken into cultivation; and the produce therefore will be obtained, and must be sold, at an increased expense. To create the latter, men must be paid at a higher rate of wages, because in every state of society, and especially in one progressive, as that of England is, men must receive somewhat above what is necessary for their support; and the expense of that support will be regulated principally by the cheapness or dearness of food.’
35 Every increase of population must arise from an increase of capital, and has a tendency to lower the prices of commodities and therefore the wages of labour, not to raise them.
[p. 36.] Thirdly, to the burden of taxation.
36 Taxation has some effect no doubt, but will not account for the rise in the price of gold.
[p. 37.] Trotter denies that the rise in prices is due to the facility with which commercial men can procure notes from the Bank of England, and thus heighten the price of every article: ‘An increase of capital (which this is to the small degree in which it exists) never raises the price of commodities, but has exactly the opposite effect’.
37 An increase of Capital never raises the prices of commodities, but an increase of money unaccompanied by an increase of Capital invariably does. Can there be an increase of population without an increase of Capital having preceded it?, yet in Page 35 we are told that an increase of population will occasion a rise in the prices of commodities, and in the wages of labour.
[p. 38] The competition of merchants, who buy to sell again, cannot heighten prices, since every merchant, in the offer he can afford to make, is limited ‘by the price which he expects to obtain in selling again. So far, indeed, from this increased capital being the occasion of high prices, it is one of the principal means of keeping them down;—a competition of capitalists, like a competition of manufacturers, restricts their respective profits.... Agreat capital is the principal advantage which any country has in entering into a competition of sales with other nations; it makes roads, it erects machinery, it promotes canals....’
38. The same cause, namely, an increase of money which will induce him to give a higher price for goods, will secure him one proportionally higher when he sells again. A competition of Capitalists keeps down prices, but money is not Capital. An increase of Capital is attended with all the benefits enumerated; an increase of money to be retained in circulation is unattended with any benefit whatever.
[p. 39.] Part II opens with a summary of the results reached so far:
‘Having shewn that the amount of our currency is fixed by an impassable boundary, which precludes the possibility of excess; having shewn that the convertibility of the portion which is paper, into that which is of the precious metals, was always limited; having shewn that (except in times of alarm, when it might be better if there were none) a very moderate degree of convertibility is necessary for the common purposes of life; and appealing to every man’s experience, that, in the small, indeed, but frequent exchanges in which gold and silver now mix, paper and these precious metals pass at a like value, thus establishing a standard for the former; it follows, that our currency is not now depressed by the use of paper.’
39. 1. This has not been shewn
2. Not frequent exchanges.
[pp. 39–40.] ‘But I am desired to take a guinea, and to melt it down; and I am shewn that the moment it is freed from the stamp of law,—as soon, in short, as it becomes bullion,—it rises in value; and that that portion of gold, which yesterday exchanged only for a one-pound note and one shilling, now exchanges for the same note, and four shillings and sixpence.
‘This evidently must proceed from one of two causes; it must proceed from the currency of which it late made a part having fallen below its usual value, or from gold in the shape of bullion, which it has now become, having risen above it.’
It has been shown that it is not the former of these causes; and therefore there can be no doubt that ‘bullion has risen above its ordinary price to the whole extent of the disparity’.
40. 1 In either case the holder of bank notes has equal cause for complaint. Why should he not rise from the value of bullion as well as lose from the fall. If bullion falls in value, the value of money, whilst the mint is open to every one falls in the same proportion. Why should not the owner of money be benefited by the rise of bullion? Did not the author say Page 35 that the cause of the rise of the prices of commodities was the decreasing value of gold generally, yet we are now told that bullion has risen. These opinions are directly at variance
[p. 40.] It is an ‘exploded belief, that gold is an unvarying standard.’
 2. Who has asserted that gold is an unvarying standard of value? There is no unvarying standard in existence. Gold is however unvarying with regard to that money which is made of gold, and this proceeds from its being at all times convertible without expence into such money, and also from money being again convertible into gold bullion. If an ounce of gold bullion from being worth 15 ounces of silver rises to the value of 30 ounces of silver, an ounce of gold coin will do the same.
[p. 41.] Gold is in fact subject to variations: ‘Since the discovery of America, and the influx which the mines of that part of the world have poured upon Europe, its value has fallen in this country to one-third’.
41. 1. The discovery of the American mines though they had quadrupled the amount of gold would not have sunk its price, whilst the mint price has not altered, and whilst it was measured by gold coin.
[p. 41.] Gold ‘is also subject to some variation from locality: in America, where it is recently dug from the mine, it must necessarily be cheaper than in Europe, which it reaches with all the expenses of freight and hazard attending upon so long a conveyance.’
 2 In America it is cheaper than in Europe but not cheaper measured in gold money. It is cheaper in labour,— cheaper in most goods or it would not be exported from thence.
[p. 42.] But on the whole, gold is the ‘best approximation to a perfect standard.... We have hitherto experienced very littleinconvenience from such local and temporary alterations; nor shall we now from that we witness, if we do not create inconveniences by improper interference.’
42. 1. We have unfortunately created inconveniences by improper interference already. A second interference is necessary in consequence of the first.
[p. 42.] Without entering into the intricacies of foreign exchanges, it must be evident to every man, who will consider the subject, that when a country, like an individual, makes purchases more in value than it sells in return, that country must, for the moment, remain in debt to the extent of the difference.’
 2. A country generally speaking never does this,— and if it did so the exchange would not be affected till the debtor country was preparing to make the payment, and then it would not vary beyond the limits stated by the bullion Committee.
[p. 44.] But there is a limit to the extent of the advances which England can obtain: something must therefore be remitted, and since the exportation of commodities from England is made impossible by political barriers, and gold is easily transported and concealed, ‘the first thing that feels the impulse of an unfavourable exchange is this very gold, which the Committee would seem to think unsusceptible of influence.
‘What then follows this demand for gold? All the train of appearances which result from a demand for other articles: it becomes more and more scarce—it gets higher and higher in price.’
44 This is the fallacy. If the preceding position could be admitted gold might rise in value, but not in price whilst measured in gold coin or in bank notes accurately representing such coin,—particularly if one class of the community had no scruple to evade the law, and exported or melted the coin as best suited their convenience.
[p. 45.] The ‘scanty fund’ of gold deposited in the Bank of England is ineffectual ‘to settle the heavy balance of payments we are every day incurring’.
45. This paragraph is indisputable.
[p. 46.] Referring to the licences granted for the import of specie, Trotter asks: ‘Could Government have found the precious metals as it could have done shoes, or clothing, or provisions, in England, would it have had recourse to such modes?’
46. 1. Yes if the trade were advantageous.
[p. 46.] ‘Whenever the imports and the foreign expenses of this or any other country exceed its exports, its exchanges will be unfavourable, and gold dear; whenever the reverse is the case, when our exports exceed our imports and foreign charges, our exchanges must be favourable, and gold cheap. How then can that be considered as an undeviating measure, which is thus ever affected by circumstances so uncontrollable?’
 2. True but within the limits specified by the committee.
3. Was it not allowed, Page 15, that the issues of paper forced the exportation of gold. Would not the reduction of their amount check exportation, and if carried sufficiently far produce importation
[p. 47.] To the question, why during the long series of years when the balance of trade was favourable to England, the price of gold had not fallen, Trotter answers: ‘When the balance of trade was against the Continent, it had always the option to pay its debts in whatever best suited our market, and, consequently, there never could be any redundancy of this, more than of any other article of commerce; as soon as the measure of our wants became full, the surplus would flow back to where it was more desired, and other articles would be selected, more suited to our market.’
47. 1. This is a just principle, but why does it not make gold revert back to us from the continent? The abundance of paper. For the same reasons that there could be no redundancy here, there could, under a sound system, be no deficiency.
[p. 47.] ‘But it will be said this theory does not hold good at the present moment. The measure of the Continental market is admitted to be full: gold, therefore, not being dear there, there cannot be the usual attraction of a high price to excite exportation from England; yet the tendency of the current is strongly that way.’
 2. This would be difficult to admit under any circumstances, but is wholly impossible whilst any commodities are imported. If commodities are imported for gold, the conclusion that gold is dearer abroad is inevitable.
[p. 48.] ‘At this time, and in this country, gold is dear’.
48. It is dearer compared with the depreciated currency, but cheaper compared with all other things.
[p. 49.] During those periods between 1797 and 1810 in which the foreign exchanges were unfavourable, gold rose in price.
49. It is not denied any where, that with a low exchange gold has a tendency, with the present legal restraint, to become more valuable than an equal weight of coin, and an opposite tendency with a high exchange; but the effects are very limited.
[p. 50.] By comparing the circulation of bank-paper with the price of gold, Trotter finds decisive proof that there is no correspondence between them. In the years 1797, 1798 and 1799, when there was an addition of 5½ millions to the circulation, ‘gold never altered its price’. Further, in the years 1800–1802, the circulation increased 23 per cent., and gold rose in value only 4, 5 and 6 per cent. In the years 1803–1807, when ‘a further increase of issues took place to the extent of a million and a half, gold bullion became cheaper’.
50. 1. How much of this was in small notes? It has been acknowledged, Page 24, that they should be left out of the account. Besides in the year 1797 the currency was much below its natural level as the exchange and the coinage will indicate.
2. The effects of the increased issues of the years 1800, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were at length but not immediately counteracted by the exportation of bullion.
[p. 51.] Therefore the opinion held by some persons, that the ‘currency is depreciated to the whole extent of the rise which bullion has experienced’ leads to ‘the most obvious absurdities.’
51. 1. I see no absurdity in such view.
[pp. 51–52.] From such an opinion, it would follow that in 1800 the currency of Great Britain became depreciated to the extent of 6 per cent., ‘and that, in 1805, with a greater proportion of paper, with a larger public debt, and with an extended war, the same currency, in all these respects less secure, recovered all the value it had lost.’
52. 1 Not the same currency but one reduced by the exportation of the coin.
[p. 52.] ‘Were such opinions just, it would follow also, that if Mr. Goldsmid, in executing any very urgent commission, should raise bullion two or three per cent. above the usual price, he would by such rash act strike off a million from the value of our currency: but the truth is, in all these instances it is only a few ounces of bullion that have got dearer or cheaper; our currency remains just the same.’
 2. It is not the price given by Mr. Goldsmid “which will strike off a million from the value of our currency”, any more than an extravagant price for coffee will add to the value of that commodity, unless in both instances the prices given is the fair, steady market price of the commodity. If so it is of little consequence whether one ounce or a thousand ounces be actually purchased. It is not the purchase but the price which proves depreciation.
[p. 53.] Trotter then replies to those who urge that the holder of a bank-note, by the letter of his contract, is entitled at all times to the same weight of gold: ‘Independent of the injustice of placing the parties to any contract in a situation not in contemplation at the time of making such contract,...the very terms of the contract are against this reasoning. There is not in existence any note of the Bank of England, or of a country bank, engaging to pay a pound of bullion: the engagement such notes contain is to pay a certain portion of the coin of the realm; which coin, bereft as it is, and always has been, of exportability, is of the same value now that it was when it issued from the Mint; and never was intended to give to the possessor the fluctuating and now very unusual advantages of bullion, from which it is so distinctly separated by the law.’
53. 1. The Bank one of the parties have placed themselves there, and may extricate themselves from the consequences by diminishing the amount of their notes.
2. Whether intended or not the effect was such till the present period.
[p. 54.] A guinea, when melted into a small ingot, could be sold at £1. 4s. 6d.: ‘Let this ingot again receive the unvarying character of coin which the law gave it, and meant it should always retain; let it once more be secured by the Tower stamp from those influences which its exportability subjects it to, and which now affect it so much...—then that ingot, that guinea, will be of the value of this note and this shilling’.
54 This is assuming the point in dispute. Coin is degraded in this case by the tower stamp, and no efforts of Government can or ought to keep it in that state. It is bad policy and at the same time contrary to every principle of equity. Bank notes can be kept in their degraded state and are therefore subject to a depreciation from which coin is exempted.
[p. 55.] The Bullion Committee had shown that there was an exact correspondence between the price of bullion and the foreign exchanges. ‘The natural inference’ was ‘that they were cause and effect’; but the Committee had formed a different conclusion and pointed to ‘something in our domestic currency as the cause of both appearances.’
55. Where do the Committee say that they are not cause and effect. The exchange is affected by the Bank issues, and becomes in its turn the cause of the high price of bullion.
[p. 56.] ‘A high market-price of gold must continue just as long as the exchange is unfavourable, however long that may be: while we have an unfavourable balance to pay, we shall ever wish to pay it, amongst other things, in that article which is of cheapest conveyance; and that article will in consequence be dear’.
56. A high price in paper does not enable us to obtain that article; it is only a nominally not a really high price.
[p. 57.] ‘The exportable gold...has acquired a new power— that of paying at the cheapest rate a foreign debt—and consequently a new value;... That portion of our gold which is in coin, which we have barred from exportation, and, of course, from this accidental quality, remains as it was, at the Mint price’.
57. The current gold coin possesses the same power, and is used for such purposes by many without scruple. The author Page 15 has himself told us so. Gold coin cannot therefore sink much beneath the value of gold bullion.
[pp. 57–58.] The Bullion Committee have stated that the ‘general rise of all prices, and in the market-price of gold, with a fall of foreign exchanges, will be the effect of an excessive quantity of circulating medium, not exportable to other countries, or convertible into a coin which is so.’ To this Trotter replies: ‘But, so long as the limitations I have explained exist, there can be no excess. Our circulating medium, when it was all of the precious metals, was never exportable,—consequently no change has taken place in this respect; and, in its present state, it is just as convertible into other coin, and into every thing that is valuable, as it ever was. One description of commodities alone have changed their relative price—those particularly fitted by their qualities for facility of transit; and surely it is not by comparing our currency with these only, that a fair test is offered of its deterioration.’
58. This is the point in dispute. I deny it.
[p. 59.] ‘Of what avail is it to us to know that gold would pay our Continental debt, at a loss of only 8 per cent. if we have not gold to the extent of that debt which we can export?’
59. But why have we not gold? The author has himself, Page 15, answered. The issues of banks have forced it out of the country.
[pp. 60–61.] The Bullion Committee, although they admit that there was an unfavourable balance of trade, state ‘—surely without cause—“that they find it difficult to resist an inference, that a portion, at least, of the late great fall in our exchanges, must have resulted, not from the state of trade, but from a change in the relative value of our domestic currency.”’
60 The author forgets that the Committee are of opinion that a favourable or an unfavourable balance of trade is controuled by the Bank issues.
[p. 63.] During the state of alarm in Ireland between 1799 and 1804, ‘Irish individuals and Irish families gave more and more for bills upon England; the exchange on this country got higher and higher, and gold rose in Dublin to a corresponding premium. It was not that an Irish gentleman, so alarmed, thought the Bank of Ireland had issued too many notes that he wished to exchange them for those of England; but because he wished the whole or some part of his property to be out of the reach of risks then peculiar to that part of the empire.’
63 Not because he thought so, but that alive to his interest he felt that in twenty guineas he possessed a value superior to £21. in notes.
[p. 64.] The alarm has been gradually subsiding, ‘till now we see in Ireland, what we ought to anticipate seeing in this country, relatively with the Continent, the exchange restored to par, and that, too, with a circulation of notes in Ireland as unlimited and as great as it was in the deprecated year of 1804.’
64. 1. The fact is, we have degraded our currency equally to that of Ireland, instead of raising that of Ireland up to ours. Two blacks will not make a white.
[p. 64.] ‘The case of the banking companies in Scotland seems at first view to be the most favourable to the arguments of the Committee; their fault was certainly in part that of over-issues’.
 2. Over-issues are possible then! I wish the author had explained what in his opinion would be the effects of the over-issues of the Bank, if the case were possible. Would they be in any thing different from what we now see.
[p. 66.] The year 1793 was one of singular distress. ‘What was the real evil? It was not a want of the currency of the country then existing;...it was mutual confidence which was wanting, and the evil was cured by a restoration of that confidence.’
66 It was a want of currency which aggravated the evil arising from want of confidence. The issue of commercial Exchequer bills induced the Bank to advance money on them, which they would not have done on other securities.
[p. 70.] In his ‘Conclusion’ Trotter reverts to the Report of the Bullion Committee: ‘They recommend that, in two years, the Bank should resume its payments in gold, whether peace be restored or not. If peace shall then prevail, the order will have been superfluous, as the law unaltered already directs cash-payments in that event.’
70. 1. When peace comes we shall not want for advocates for a continuance of the restriction bill.
[p. 70.] ‘Should peace not be restored, the Bank...must add to our unfavourable balance by increasing our imports: they must raise the difficult supplies, which they will be obliged to provide for their cash-payments, by the most ruinous means to themselves; for they must purchase abroad, to bring it home, that very commodity which the whole trading world are seeking at home to send abroad.’
 2. There would be no such necessity. A contraction of their notes would make others import gold.
[p. 70.] ‘Is it not apparent, that one supply, or one hundred supplies, will not suffice in the given state of exchanges?’
 3. But the exchanges are controulable by the Bank issues
[pp. 70–71.] ‘Have we not seen at least eight or ten millions of our specie melted down and sent away in the last fifteen years’?
71. 1. Yes; but caused by over-issues. Let paper be contracted and the inducement will cease. (See page 15)
[p. 71.] The regulations proposed in the Bullion Report, if ‘carried to the extreme of possibility,...would produce the most inconvenient effects:—it is within possibility, that the Bank, constantly coining and constantly importing to supply a waste greater than it could replace, might be obliged to declare its inability to keep out its notes at this expense, and might find itself under the necessity (I put an extreme case) of withdrawing its paper from circulation altogether. What then would be the result?’
 2 An unbounded importation of gold would be the result; a measure by no means desirable. Our adversaries charge us with being unfriendly to a paper circulation,—this is not just,—it is of its abuse that we complain
[pp. 71–72.] ‘Either the public must be satisfied with a worse currency, and accept for their convenience the notes of private bankers to the extent of the void; or they must import twenty millions of the precious metals to perform the offices which bank- notes now execute so well.’
72. 1. Is not the principle of the Committee which is so often denied in this work acknowledged here. Viz that a reduction of notes, or rather their annihilation would cause the import of the precious metals, and consequently of a favourable exchange.
[p. 72.] ‘In the former case our exchanges would remain exactly as they are now; in the latter almost inconceivable case... we should, at the expense of a million a year in interest for the use of this expensive instrument, and of two or three millions in unfavourable exchanges to acquire it, bring up our currency to the war-price of bullion, which price, obtained by such sacrifices, it would again lose the hour after peace and free intercourse were restored.’
 2. What is meant by “bringing up our currency to the war price of bullion”? Would the price of gold under the circumstances supposed be above £3. 17. 10½ pr. oz? If it were who would take any part of the 20 millions imported to the mint to be coined? The bank it must be remembered is supposed to have ceased to exist.
3. The measure would be improvident and ruinous, because the same good might be obtained with a very small sacrifice.
[p. 73.] The restriction of cash payments has indeed prevented the Bank of England from paying its notes in coin, but ‘it has left the law exactly as it stood before, with regard to the rest of the community: every individual stands precisely as he did before 1797, and is as liable to a settlement of his debt in the coin which the law alone acknowledges as he ever was.’
73 Can the consequences be contemplated, without the most fearful alarm, of every creditor insisting on payments being made to him in coin, to which by law he is entitled? Let them insist on this right and bank notes would be immediately at a great and acknowledged discount.
[p. 75.] The restriction has relieved the community ‘from the intolerable expense of purchasing gold only to coin, and of coining gold only to be melted down.’
75 We might have been secured from all such consequences by a reduction in the amount of paper, at any time since the alarm ceased in 1797.
[p. 76.] The restriction was ‘an act of the Legislature, adopted on public grounds, and in fulfilment of one of the duties of Government—to prevent or lessen a public evil in the exportation of our coin’.
76 But if those public grounds are proved to have ceased, should not the measure itself?
[pp. 76–77.] The efficient state of the currency ‘deserves our peculiar care; but we ought to watch it without any of those prejudices or alarms which we daily see in men otherwise intelligent, who impute our debts, our taxes, our commercial distresses, to some irregular action of this (to them) unintelligible machine.’
77 They justly distinguish what is imputable to this cause, and what to other causes. The machine is by no means unintelligible to those against whom it is charged,—I suspect the saddle is put on the wrong horse.
[p. 78.] The public ought to be unfettered in their choice between a gold and a paper currency. ‘That we have not now this choice is the result of political circumstances entirely out of our control.’
78. 1. Entirely within our control
[p. 78.] ‘It is not to be anticipated that the Power which now holds the Continent in bondage, and shuts its ports against our commerce, will always be able to exercise the same injurious sway. Whenever that ceases, and with it ceases the necessity of our late foreign expenditure, we shall again see the precious metals at their Mint price’.
 2 I doubt much whether bullion can ever fall to its mint price, whilst the present amount of paper continues in circulation. I should say decidedly it could not (unless our commerce was greatly to increase) if the value of gold and silver did not fall in Europe equal to the depreciation of our paper. This would have the effect of increasing the currencies of other countries in the same proportion in which ours has been increased.
OBSERVATIONS ON TROWER’S NOTES ON TROTTER
NOTE ON ‘OBSERVATIONS ON TROWER’S NOTES ON TROTTER’
Trower, like Ricardo, had written a commentary on Trotter’s pamphlet. This commentary, extending to forty pages of MS, is headed ‘Notes and Observations on a Pamphlet entitled The Principles of Currency and Exchanges...(Anonymous) by Coutts Trotter Esqr.’ and is dated ‘February 1811’. It is in reply to this paper that Ricardo wrote the Observations here printed.
Both MSS were found among Trower’s papers. Trower’s MS is unpublished and is in the possession of Dr Bonar. Ricardo’s MS has been published in Appendix A (2) to Letters of David Ricardo to Hutches Trower and Others 1811–1823, ed. by J. Bonar and J. H. Hollander, Oxford, 1899, from which it is here reprinted. The MS is in the possession of Professor Hollander.
[OBSERVATIONS ON TROWER’S NOTES ON TROTTER]
What does Mr. Trotter mean by saying that it may be more advantageous to discharge a foreign debt by the exportation of a dear than of a cheap article;—by the exportation of gold which is dearer than by commodities which are cheaper here than abroad? This is evidently impossible;— it implies a contradiction and needs no argument to prove its absurdity. If he means that the exportation of all other commodities will be attended with so much expense as to make it more advantageous to export gold,—then gold cannot be said to be dearer here than abroad because it is under all circumstances the cheapest exportable commodity. When we say that gold is dearer here than abroad and that commodities are not, we must include the expences attending their transportation to the foreign market, otherwise they are not fair subjects of comparison. If Mr. Trotter means that nothing but gold will be accepted in payment of our debt notwithstanding its relative price,—then there is an end of all comparison between gold and other things,—we have contracted to pay gold and nothing but gold will absolve us from our engagements. But it is not with Trotter’s; it is with Mr. Trower’s observations that I have now to deal.
He observes that if it could be admitted that a foreign merchant would import gold at a loss, it would follow [“]that merchants were bartering two commodities on one of which they both lose (this one I suppose is bullion) [;] their profits then, he says, must be taken out of the other article. The seller must add to the price of the article (of wheat for example) the loss sustained upon the bullion he receives in payment; the buyer must afterwards add to the price of the article (wheat) over and above his profit the loss he sustains upon the bullion in which he pays for it.[”] In the first place this is not a fair answer to Mr. Trotter,—he supposes a debt already contracted and which can only be discharged by money;—his argument has no reference to any new contract which may take place between the exporter of wheat from the continent and the exporter of bullion or of money from England, and in which contract the consideration of the value of these articles must necessarily enter. His case is this, an importer of wheat into England has engaged to pay a sum of money, a certain weight of bullion, and the time is arrived at which his creditor will accept of nothing else.
Secondly, if we admit that the argument is fairly applied, we are not told on whose account the transaction took place; was it on account of the foreign or of the English merchant? We are led to suppose indeed that it is on account of both, and that they have both an interest in the value of bullion because they are both to add to the price of the wheat to compensate them for the loss on the Bullion,—one of them is to do so because bullion is cheap and the other because bullion is dear. If it be said that the importation of the wheat into England is on account of the English merchant only, then the transaction was complete as far as regarded the foreign merchant at the moment he sold the wheat. He bought it in France for a sum of French currency and sold it for a sum of French currency which was to be paid him either by means of a bill of exchange or by the actual transit of bullion of an equal value,—he has therefore no other interest but to take care to receive his payment, and his profit if any should attach to it. It is probable that he might have only been an agent and have no other interest but his commission for his trouble. If then the transaction be on account of the English merchant what possible inducement will he have to import the wheat if the bullion which he has engaged to give in return for it, be dearer in England than in France, that is to say if he cannot sell it for more money than he has purchased it for.
If he can do so, does it not prove that bullion is cheaper in England than in France? that with the commodity wheat more bullion may be bought in England than in France? As far as those commodities are concerned, what greater evidence can we possess of bullion being dearer in France than in England? Is it a satisfactory answer to say, no; it is the wheat that is dearer in England;—dearer for what? why, for bullion. This I conceive is but another way of saying that bullion is cheaper in England and dearer in France. How are we to distinguish then whether the profit has been obtained by the sale of the money or by the purchase of the wheat, seeing that they precisely express the same thing?
In the supposed case then, of the exportation of bullion, notwithstanding its being dearer in the exporting country, in return for wheat, the fact that wheat is cheaper in the importing country is necessarily involved;—how then can there be any remedy against the disadvantage of exporting bullion by raising the price of the wheat? It is saying, because wheat is cheaper here than abroad,—I will add to the quantity by importing more and will at the same time increase its price. The same argument may be used if the whole transaction were on account of the foreign merchant.
OBSERVATIONS ON VANSITTART’S PROPOSITIONS RESPECTING MONEY, BULLION AND EXCHANGES
NOTE TO ‘OBSERVATIONS ON VANSITTART’
Ricardo’s Observations on Vansittart’s Propositions on the Bullion Report appear to have been written between 26 April and 3 May 1811. The MS, which is among Ricardo’s Papers, covers seven quarto pages. It has been printed in Minor Papers on the Currency Question, ed. by J. H. Hollander, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1932, pp. 111–17.
The Bullion Report, though published in August 1810, was not discussed in the House of Commons until the following year. On 5 April 1811 it was agreed, on Horner’s proposal, that the debate on the Report should take place on 29 April; later, however, the debate was postponed to 6 May.
During the intervening weeks Resolutions were drawn up and circulated both by the supporters and by the opponents of the Report; on 22 April Horner’s sixteen Resolutions embodying the conclusions of the Report were printed, and on 26 April Vansittart’s seventeen Counter-Resolutions were printed under the title ‘Propositions respecting Money, Bullion and Exchanges’. On 3 May were printed Horner’s Amendments to Vansittart’s Propositions, and also a revised version of these Propositions.
The debate on Horner’s Resolutions began on 6 May and ended with the defeat of all his Resolutions on 9 May. That on Vansittart’s Propositions began on 13 May and ended on 15 May with their adoption, after Horner’s amendments had been negatived.
Ricardo’s Observations refer to the first printed version of Vansittart’s Propositions, dated 26 April 1811. This establishes the earliest date for the writing of Ricardo’s Observations and suggests as the latest date 3 May, when the revised version of Vansittart’s Propositions was printed.
The first ten of Vansittart’s Propositions (which is as far as Ricardo’s comments go), in their original version, are here printed in square brackets and in smaller type before the respective comments.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE PROPOSITIONS RESPECTING MONEY, BULLION AND EXCHANGES
[Vansittart’s Counter-Resolutions, dated 26 April 1811.]
[I. That the right of establishing and regulating the legal Money of this Kingdom hath at all times been a Royal Prerogative, vested in the Sovereigns thereof, who have from time to time exercised the same as they have seen fit, in changing such legal Money, or altering and varying the value, and enforcing or restraining the circulation thereof, by Proclamation, or in concurrence with the Estates of the Realm by Act of Parliament: and that such legal Money cannot lawfully be defaced, melted down or exported.
II. —That the Promissory Notes of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England are engagements to pay certain sums of Money in the legal Coin of this Kingdom; and that for more than a century past, the said Governor and Company were at all times ready to discharge such Promissory Notes in legal Coin of the Realm, until restrained from so doing on the 25th of February 1797, by His Majesty’s Order in Council, confirmed by Act of Parliament.
III. —That the Promissory Notes of the said Company have hitherto been, and are at this time, held to be equivalent to the legal Coin of the Realm, in all pecuniary transactions to which such Coin is legally applicable.]
3d. The Promissory Notes of the Bank of England cannot justly be said to be at “this time held to be equivalent to the legal coin of the Realm” when the coin is bought at a premm. of 6 and 7 pct.,—and when it is prevented from openly rising to 15 or 18 pct. (its real and intrinsic value above paper) by the terror of the law which deters all men of character from engaging in a traffic which is disreputable and illegal. Whilst the law can be enforced the currency may be depreciated 50 pct., and yet the coin and paper may preserve the same value as currency.
[IV.—That at various periods, as well before as since the said Restriction, the Exchanges between Great Britain and several other Countries have been unfavourable to Great Britain: and that during such periods, the prices of Gold and Silver Bullion, especially of such Gold Bullion as could be legally exported, have frequently risen above the Mint price; and the coinage of Money at the Mint has been either wholly suspended or greatly diminished in amount: and that such circumstances have usually occurred, when expensive Naval and Military operations have been carried on abroad, and in times of public danger or alarm, or when large importations of Grain from foreign parts have taken place.]
4th. At no period have the exchanges before the restriction been more unfavourable to Great Britain than 5 or 7 pct. or the expences attending the transportation of bullion. Neither did the price of gold bullion in bars, whilst the coin was undebased rise above the mint price excepting in the years 1783 and 4 when it exceeded the mint price about one penny halfpenny.
[V.—That such unfavourable Exchanges, and rise in the price of Bullion, occurred to a greater or less degree during the wars carried on by King William the 3d. and Queen Ann; and also during part of the Seven years war, and of the American war; and during the War and Scarcity of grain in 1795 and 1796, when the difficulty increased to such a degree, that on the 25th of February 1797, the Bank of England was restrained from making payments in Cash by His Majesty’s Order in Council, confirmed and continued to the present time by divers Acts of Parliament; and the Exchanges became afterwards still more unfavourable, and the price of Bullion higher, during the scarcity which prevailed for two years previous to the Peace of Amiens.]
5th. Though the exchanges were unfavourable and gold bullion rose above the mint price during the Wars of King William and Queen Anne, this happened only occasionally and in a moderate degree, all which occurrences may be satisfactorily explained—from the acknowledged state of the debasement of the coin. That this was the principal cause is abundantly proved by the fact of the price of gold falling below the mint price and the exchanges rising above par immediately on the reformation of the coin. During the seven years war the gold coin then the principal measure of value had become debased which will account for the price of gold having occasionally been as high as £4. 1. 6. The exchange was, though as low as 31.10 in 1760, never below the real par. The relative value of gold and silver was in the market at this time as 14 to 1. Gold was a legal tender in England and a pound sterling in gold was probably of less value in the market than the silver in 31/10 of Hamburgh. The real par of exchange between England and Hamburgh when the relative market value of gold and silver, agrees with the relative mint value viz as 1 to 15.07, is 35/1,—con- sequently when the relative value is as 1 to 14 the real par is 32/7. Now if we take into our consideration the debased state of the English coin in the year 1760 it is probable that the exchange when at 31/10 was really favourable to England.
At no period in the American War did the price of bar gold exceed the mint price excepting in 1783 when it was as high as £3. 18. pr. oz. 1½d. above the mint price. The exchanges were at this time never more than 3½ pct. below par, the lowest exchange with Hamburgh being 31/5, whilst the relative value of gold and silver was as 1 to 14 and consequently the real par 32/7. In 1795 and 6 neither the price of bar gold nor of foreign coin exceeded £3. 17. 6 nor were the exchanges at any period lower than 32/4, the relative value of gold and silver being as 1 to 14, and the real par 32/7. In 1797 when the Bank of England was restrained from making payments in Cash the exchanges were considerably in favour of England, and the price of gold 4½d. under the mint price.
In the beginning of 1799 the exchange was both nominally and really favourable to England, being at 37/7. In the latter end of that year the price of silver had risen 10 pct. and then the currency of Hamburgh had risen relatively to that of England in the same proportion so that the exchange tho’ nominally 10 pct. unfavourable to England was really at par.— From this Period the exchange and price of bullion were operated on by the excessive issues of the Bank, which were after sufficient intervals corrected from time to time by the exportation of the coin.
[VI.—That during the period of 75 years, ending with the 1st of January 1796 and previous to the aforesaid restriction whereof, with the exception of some small intervals, Accounts are before the House, the price of Standard Gold in bars has been at or under the Mint price 34 years and 5 months; and above the said Mint price 39 years and 7 months; and that the price of Foreign Gold Coin has been at or under £3. 18. per oz. 31 years and 2 months, and above the said price 42 years and 10 months. And that during the same period of 75 years, the price of standard Silver appears to have been at or under the Mint price, 3 years and 2 months only.]
6th. For a period of 22 years previous to 1st. Jany 1796 that is to say from the recoinage in 1774, the price of gold in bars never exceeded the mint price excepting in the latter end of 1783 and beginning of 1784 when it rose to £3. 18—pr oz. From 1717 when gold was declared a legal tender to 1774 it has generally been about £3. 18—pr oz but occasionally rose to £4 and even to £4. 1 pr oz.—This price is justly attributable to the debased state of the coinage. It is remarkable that the price of gold in coin seldom at these periods exceeded the price of gold in bars which I think is a satisfactory proof that the price of gold was occasioned by the state of the currency and not in consequence of a really unfavourable exchange and therefore any demand for gold abroad. Since the recoinage the price of gold in coin has frequently exceeded the price of gold in bars by 2 or 3/-. It would be a remarkable circumstance if one of the precious metals were not always above the mint price. In this country silver has been generally so circumstanced.
[VII.—That the unfavourable state of the Exchanges, and the high price of Bullion, do not, in any of the instances above referred to, appear to have been produced by the restriction upon Cash payments at the Bank of England, or by any excess in the issue of Bank Notes; inasmuch as all the said instances, except the last, occurred previously to any restriction on such Cash payments; and because, so far as appears by such information as has been procured, the price of Bullion has frequently been highest, and the Exchanges most unfavourable, at periods, when the issues of Bank Notes have been considerably diminished, and to have been afterwards restored to their ordinary rates, although those issues have been increased.]
7th. The assertion in this resolution is by no means proved. If it is founded on Mr. Pearse’s statement it must be given up as that gentleman’s facts as well as his reasoning are incorrect.
[VIII.—That during the latter part and for sometime after the close of the American war, during the years 1781, 1782 and 1783, the exchange with Hamburgh fell from 34.1 to 31.5, being about 8 per cent.; and the price of foreign gold rose from £3. 17. 6. to £4. 2. 3. per oz. and the price of Dollars from 5s. 4½. per oz. to 5s. 11¼. and that the Bank Notes in circulation were reduced between March 1782 and December 1782, from £9,160,000 to £5,995,000, being a diminution of above one third, and continued (with occasional variations) at such reduced rate until December 1784: and that the exchange with Hamburgh rose to 34.6, and the price of Gold fell to £3. 17. 6. and Dollars to 5s. 1½. per oz. before the 25th February 1787, the amount of Bank Notes being then increased to £8,688,000.]
8. The price of foreign gold coin is frequently 2 or 3/- pr. oz higher than bar gold being often wanted for particular markets. It appears that in the year 1781 the price of bar gold did not exceed £3. 17. 6 and gold in coin is once quoted £4. 0. 6. In 1782 bar gold did not exceed £3. 17. 9 and gold in coin is once quoted £4. 2.—In 1783 bar gold £3. 18— and foreign gold is in one month quoted as high as £4. 2. 3 and as low as £3. 17. 9. The exchange in 1781—varied from 34/1 to 31/11 a fall of nearly 7 pct. but during the same period silver rose 7 pct. viz. from 5/5½ which was the price when the exchange was 34/1 to 5/10 its price when the exchange was 31/11. In 1782 the exchange fell to 31/8 and silver rose to 5/11½. In 1783 the exchange fell to 31/5 and 31/6 and silver to 5/8½. In neither of these years was the real exchange more unfavourable to England than 3½ pct. —It should be remarked that the price of dollars was not 5/11¼ at the same period that the price of gold was £4. 2. 3. According to the wording of this resolution we should be induced to suppose that the fall of 8 pct. in the exchange occasioned both the high price of gold and the high price of dollars. When dollars were at 5/11¼ gold in bars was at £3. 17. 9 and foreign gold in coin £4.—. 1 and the exchange 31/10—the relative value of gold and silver being as 1 to 13.1—so that the real par of exchange was 31/- and consequently the then exchange of 31/10 favourable to England.
I have no account of the Bank notes in circulation in the years 1781. 2. 3. —Was the circulation in March 1782 of 9,160,000 a temporary or had it been a permanent amount?— what was the state of it in Jany. 1782, in Jany. 1783. An increase of a month or two can produce no permanent nor even a temporary effect.—I should like to see the account of Bank notes in circulation up to 1790. —Mr. Vansittart wishes his readers to suppose that the price of gold did not fall to £3. 17. 6; dollars to 5/1½; and the exchange did not rise to 34/6 till the increase of Bank notes in 1787 to 8,688,000,— but it appears that in Jany. 1784, bar gold and foreign gold were no higher than £3. 18— pr. oz., from May 1784 to August 1785 neither of them were above £3. 17. 10½ and from that period till 1792 they were never higher than £3. 17. 6. In 1784 Dollars were at 5/1 and in 1785 as low as 5/- and the exchange was at 34/10 in 1784 and at 35/6 in 1785.
[IX.—That the Amount of Bank Notes in February 1787 was £8,688,000, and in February 1791 £11,699,000; and that during the same period, the sum of £10,704,000 was coined in Gold; and that the Exchange with Hamburgh rose about 3 per cent.]
9. Did the exchange during the periods alluded to in these resolutions vary beyond the limits laid down as the true principle by the Report,—this is the test by which they ought fairly to be tried. Who has denied that the exchange may be 1 or 2 pct. or even more at one time in favour of Hamburgh, and at another 1 or 2 pc in favour of London. Who again has denied that during a period of successful commerce an increase of 3 or 4 millions of circulating medium may not be wanted? This might have been occasioned too by a diminution generally in the market of the world of the value of the precious metals. The coinage from 1787 to 1791 inclusive from foreign gold did not exceed £4,000,000 that from light guineas cannot be considered as an augmentation to the currency. Mr. Vansittart states the whole at 10,704 millions.
[X.—That between the 25th of February 1795, and the 25th of February 1797, the amount of Bank Notes was reduced from £13,539,000 to £8,640,000, during which time the exchange with Hamburgh fell from 36 to 35, being about 3 per cent., and the said amount was increased to £11,855,000, exclusive of £1,542,000 in Notes of £1. and £2. each on the 1st of February 1798, during which time the Exchange rose to 38.2, being about 9 per cent.]
10. In January 1795 the circulation of Bank notes was from 10 to 12 millions[,] in March it was as high as 14 millions but was immediately reduced to about 10 millions, it continued during the whole year between 10 and 11 millions except for one fortnight when it exceeded it. It was not till after July 1796 that the amount of notes was lowered to below 9,500,000[,] for the rest of the year it varied from 9,500,000 to about 9,000,000. The exchange fell in 1795 from 36 at which it was in Feby. to 32/10 in July. In the end of 1796 the exchange rose again to 34/7, the price of silver being at 5/4 and 5/6 and gold £3. 17. 6 the exchange was uniformly above par.
The average amount of notes in Jany. 1795 was 11 millions[,] in Feby. about 10 millions, in March 11,700, in April 11,100, in May 10.200, June 9,800, July 10,250, Aug 10600, —Sep 10,500,—Octr 10400, Nov 10750, Dcr 11,900, Jan 96 10300, Feb 10,350, Mar 9,800, Ap 10500, May 10,100, June 9,400, July 9,400 and continued about 9 millions till Feb 1797,—in which year the exchange rose to 38/2. It must be observed that the price of standard silver fell this year to 5/0½ so that the real par was perhaps not less than 36 or 37.
It appears then that it was between Apl. 1796 and Feby. 1797 that the amount of notes was reduced from 10,500 to 8,640, and that the exchange rose from 32/7 the price in Jan 1796 to 36/8 in April and 38/- in Sepr., the earliest period perhaps at which the effects of the reduction of the amount of the circulation would be felt by the exchange.
‘Mr. ’ of the Bullion Report
In his Notes on the Bullion Report (above, p. 347 ff.) Ricardo comments extensively on the evidence of the anonymous Continental merchant who was a witness before the Bullion Committee, and refers to him several times in his Reply to Bosanquet (above, pp. 163, 168, 185) and once in his Notes on Bentham (above,p. 288).
This witness gave evidence on four days (2, 5, 7 and 8 March1810), being described in the Minutes as ‘Mr.—, a Continental Merchant’; he is referred to in the Report as ‘a very eminent Continental Merchant’ and again as ‘the Merchant who has been already mentioned as being intimately acquainted with the trade between this Country and the Continent of Europe’.
Professor Cannan, speaking of him in the Introduction to his reprint of the Bullion Report, says ‘An obvious conjecture is that this modest Mr. Blank was the great N. M. Rothschild.’ Later writers have required no further proof and have taken this identification with Rothschild for granted. This suggestion however can be dismissed, apart from the circumstances mentioned below, simply by comparing the evidence of Mr. with that given by Rothschild before the Secret Committees of 1819 (Resumption of Cash Payments) and 1832 (Renewal of the Bank Charter); the differences in style and the contradiction between the opinions of Mr. in 1810 and of Rothschild in 1819 and 1832 are such as to rule out the hypothesis of their being the same person.
Besides, there is nothing that could be even remotely compromising in Mr.—’s evidence and it is difficult to imagine that anyone should feel so endangered by the acknowledgement of its authorship as to adopt the extraordinary expedient of being reported anonymously. The only possible reason for anonymity must have been to conceal the presence of the witness in London at the time. But there was no secret about Rothschild’s residence in England, where he had been established for many years. Thus there could be no reason for his anonymity.
As the anonymous merchant was the only witness, besides Sir Francis Baring, whose evidence on the whole supported the conclusions of the Committee, he was frequently referred to in the pamphlet literature and was singled out for attack by the Anti- bullionists; but none of these writers supplies any clue to his identity. What was said in the Bullion debate in the House of Commons by critics of the Report is a little more informative. George Rose, Vice-President of the Board of Trade, said of him that ‘though a most respectable man, [he] has more of Continental than of British interests’. And Nicholas Vansittart, the leading opponent of the Report, referred to him as ‘One gentle- man...of whom (as he is not named) we know nothing more, than that he resides abroad, therefore has not had the means of forming his judgement on the spot’.
That he was a resident abroad, and that he had more of Continental than of British interests is thus all the information that was disclosed at the time. Retaining this, we turn for further clues to his own evidence before the Committee.
Other Continental merchants who were heard, under their names, by the Bullion Committee, were asked as one of the first questions: ‘Are you acquainted with the subject of the exchanges between this Country and the Continent?’ Whilst merchants specialising in the trade with any one country were at once asked a question on the currency of that particular country.
Now, the first question asked to the anonymous Continental merchant was the significant one: ‘Are you acquainted with the subject of the exchange between this country and Hamburgh?’ And although he replied ‘I am, and with other foreign Countries’, his factual evidence on foreign countries refers largely to Hamburg or else to the other Northern countries. Indeed, when he is asked ‘Can you state how much per cent. may be the present expence and risk of transporting Gold from London to Amsterdam or Hamburgh, or any other principal places of trade on the Continent?’ he answers simply ‘Independent of the premium of insurance, it would be from 1½ to 2 per cent. from London to Hamburgh.’
If therefore we assume that Mr.— was a resident of Hamburg, the reason for his wishing to remain anonymous and to conceal his presence in London becomes apparent. For Hamburg had been in French occupation since the end of 1806, and under the Berlin and Milan Decrees a visit to England constituted a serious offence.
It is recorded that only seven British firms were able to continue their activity in Hamburg during the French occupation, as their partners had the Hamburg citizenship. The names of the firms in question are: Parish & Co.; Kirkpatrick & Co.; Humphrey Carvick & Co.; J. B. Smith, Barclay & Co.; Peacock & Co.; George Walker; Thomas Tattlock.
Certain allusions in Mr.—’s evidence, taken in conjunction with an entry in one of the accounts in the Appendix to the Bullion Report, indicate the firm among those listed with which he was probably connected.
Mr.— in his evidence mentions repeatedly ‘foreign subsidies’ and ‘the expenditures for the account of Government abroad’ among the ‘extraordinary causes’ which he regards as having operated on the exchange so as to depress it below par at times when the balance of trade was in favour of England.
Appendix LXX to the Bullion Report contains an account of the Bills of Exchange drawn on the Treasury for expenses abroad, from 1804 to 1809. One of the largest single items in this account is a payment for over £700,000, in the year 1806, to Edward Thornton, Minister at Hamburg, for ‘Public services’; in connection with which, payments for over £5000 were made to each of two firms of Hamburg merchants, Thornton and Power, and Parish and Co., for ‘Interest and commission on the negociation of bills drawn by Mr. Thornton, &c.’
It was the more likely that a Hamburg merchant would be acquainted with the British Government’s expenses abroad and their subsidies to the Allies if he had been himself connected with such transactions; now Thornton and Power had ceased activity in Hamburg after the French occupation, so we may concentrate our attention on Parish & Co.
The firm, one of the largest merchant houses in Hamburg, had been founded by John Parish, who had gone there as a boy from Scotland in 1756. He retired from the business in 1796, entrusting it to his sons, and fled from Hamburg when the city was occupied by the French, settling at Bath in 1807, where he remained till his death in 1829. In 1809 three of his sons, John, Richard and Charles, were in charge of the firm. It appears that at this time Richard conducted the ordinary commercial activity of the firm, Charles was engaged in the dangerous business of breaking through the Continental blockade, with bases at Heligoland and the small ports of Holstein, and John, the eldest brother, had undertaken the even more dangerous task of transmitting the British subsidies to Austria, then at war with Napoleon.
John Parish, junior describes his enterprise in a report to the Emperor of Austria as follows. At the beginning of the year 1809, being in London, he was asked on behalf of the British Government if he could devise means for transmitting to the Austrian Government an instalment of the British subsidy. ‘At that moment this seemed almost impossible, as all communication with the Continent was so hindered by the French measures that there was danger of life even in receiving a simple letter.’ He decided to hazard for the purpose his fortune and his person ‘since no one else was then in a position to achieve the object desired.’ In May he went from London to Hamburg to make arrangements for advancing the money from his own resources, as it was not possible to transfer it from England; and in June he proceeded, by way of Berlin, to the Austrian headquarters where he made the payment.
This was not an isolated transaction, for in the autumn of 1810, a confidential British agent on the Continent, J. M. Johnson, wrote to the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office that John Parish, junior ‘has on various occasions rendered important services to the british government, and...it is thro’ his house that most government payments have of late years been made on the continent’, adding that Parish ‘was frequently consulted by Mr. Canning and Mr. Hammond’. Subsequently Parish went to London, with a letter of Johnson, dated 29 Nov. 1810, introducing him to the Under-Secretary as one ‘who has rendered essential services to our government on many important occasions.’
We know, therefore, that Parish was on secret visits to London both in the spring of 1809 and in the autumn of 1810. There is no direct evidence of his being there in March 1810, when Mr.was being examined by the Bullion Committee. But there is a circumstance which may have provided the occasion for a visit at that time. When Austria concluded her armistice with Napoleon (in July 1809), the monthly subsidy from the British Government naturally came to an end. Metternich, however, requested J. M. Johnson, the British secret agent, to demand of the British Government that the subsidy be continued up to the ratification of the peace, on the ground that after the armistice ‘the threatening attitude of the Austrian armies’ continued to operate as a powerful diversion in favour of England. The message was to be delivered by the agent himself on his arrival in England; otherwise, as the agent reported, Metternich ‘particularly requested that in case any unforeseen event prevented my immediate return to England I should not make the foregoing communication in writing untill a perfectly safe mode of conveyance presented itself’. In fact Johnson went only as far as Hamburg, where he wrote his report to the Foreign Office on 7 January 1810, and sent it to London where it did not arrive until 16 February. It is probable that the transmission of the message would be entrusted to the house of Parish, which was the usual channel of communication; and in connection with this negotiation (which does not appear to have achieved Metternich’s object) John Parish, junior himself may have travelled to London just at the time when the Bullion Committee began its hearings.
Turning back to Mr.—’s evidence we find one or two details which tally with events in the life of John Parish, junior as given by Ehrenberg. Mr.— in his evidence describes, as from first- hand knowledge, the state of public opinion and the general commercial conditions in England, following the suspension of cash payments in 1797, and refers to the commercial distress which existed in the year 1799; now, in 1799 John Parish, junior made a prolonged visit to England. Also, Mr.— alludes to the currency events in Austria in the summer of 1809, when as we know Parish was on a mission to that country.
Apart from his evidence to the Bullion Committee (if it is admitted that he was the anonymous witness) John Parish, junior’s only contribution to the subject appears to have been a paper on the Austrian Banking and Currency system, which he sent to Friedrich von Gentz in August 1816. In that year, at the age of 42, he retired from business with a large fortune, bought the estate of Senftenberg in Bohemia and was made a baron by the Emperor of Austria in recognition of his services. He died in1858.
The hypothesis here advanced as to the identity of Mr. has since been confirmed as a result of a search in the Hamburg Archives kindly undertaken by Dr Eduard Rosenbaum at my request. There is in the Archives, among the papers of Karl Sieveking (a contemporary of Parish) an unpublished ‘History of the Pound Sterling from 25 February 1797 to the Second Peace of Paris’. Reviewing the evidence given before the Bullion Committee Sieveking writes: ‘Particularly remarkable is the evidence of a Continental merchant, who is said to be Mr John Parish of Hamburg, at present owner of the estate of Senftenberg in Bohemia’. Sieveking was in a position to know, for when writing his history in 1817 he was in touch with Parish who supplied him with a copy of the Bullion Report and a set of the Edinburgh Review.
TABLES OF CORRESPONDING PAGES for Ricardo’s Pamphlets in the original editions, 1811, McCulloch’s edition (Works, 1846 etc.), Gonner’s edition (Economic Essays, 1923 etc.), and the present edition.
THE HIGH PRICE OF BULLION
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REPLY TO MR. BOSANQUET’S PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS
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