Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV.: Of the Proportions held between Gold and Silver, Antient and Modern. - A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money
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CHAP. IV.: Of the Proportions held between Gold and Silver, Antient and Modern. - John Ramsay McCulloch, A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money 
A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money from the Originals of Vaughan, Cotton, Petty, Lowndes, Newton, Prior, Harris, and Others, with a Preface, Notes, and Index (London: Printed for the Political Economy Club, 1856).
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Of the Proportions held between Gold and Silver, Antient and Modern.
USE and Delight, or the opinion of them, are the true causes why all things have a Value and Price set upon them, but the Proportion of that value and price is wholy governed by Rarity and Abundance: And therefore the Proportion of value between Gold and Silver must needs differ in several Times and Places, according to the scarcity or abundance of those Mettals. There is much Variety amongst Authors what Proportions Gold and Silver held to one another amongst the Hebrews, not out of the Difference of Times, but out of the Difference of Interpretations; for Bodine doth alledge the same places to prove that the Proportion was twenty five for one, which other Authors do alledge to prove it to have been 45 for one; and others 10 for one. There is a Passage in Thalia, of Herodotus, (§ 95) by which it appears, that Thirteen Talents of Silver were valued at one of Gold in the Revenues of Darius. And there is an Opinion received, That in the time of the flourishing of the Grecian Common-wealths, those Mettals were in the Proportion of twelve to one. It is also reported in Pliny, (without mentioning any certain time). That antiently the Romans did value a scruple of Gold at twenty Sestertii of Silver, which, if it were when the Sestertii were at the greatest weight, made the Proportion of twenty for one: and if it were when they were at their least weight, it made the Proportion of fifteen for one. But there is a clear Passage, in the 8th Book (§ 11) of the 4th Decade of Livy, of an Accord between the Romans and Ætolians, that the Ætolians might pay, instead of every Talent of Gold, ten Talents of Silver; and (in Suetonius) it is said, that Cæsar, at his coming out of Gallia brought such a quantity of Gold, that the Proportion betwixt Gold and Silver abated to seven and one half of Silver to one of Gold:* the abatement had not been credible, if the Proportion of Pliny had been twenty for one, or fifteen for one. But to come to later times, and to our Neighbours, which have therefore a more near Relation to us, both in time and place.
The proportion in France, in the time of King John, who was contemporant with Edward the Third, was 11 for one: and in the time of Charles the Fifth, who succeeded next to him, it was 11 and almost 12 for one. And ever since the Proportion has been held between 11 and 12 for one. But by the Edict of this French King now reigning, December 1614, the mark of Gold fine is valued at 27l. 16s. 7d. the mark of Silver called Argent le Roy, is valued at 14s. 6d. and almost one half penny. But adding a 24th part to the two, to make it fine, which the Silver called Argent le Roy doth want of fineness, the proportion will arise into 13, wanting about a seventh part to one of Gold. In Germany about the year 1610, the Proportion held 13 for one, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less; though antiently the Proportion was eleven for one. The Proportion in Spain hath a long time remained near about twelve for one. The Proportion in the United Provinces, by the Placcard 1622. (which is yet in force) is about 12 and two thirds fine silver, to one of Gold. But before I come to set the Proportions that have been held in this Kingdom of England I shall first set down, How I do inquire and resolve of the said Proportions, to the end I may satisfy such whose Curiosity may carry them to examine the truth of the said Proportions.
I do first examine by the Records of the several times, how much the Gold, then coined in work, is valued at, then I do examine what proportion of Allay is mixed in the said Gold coined in work, and add to the same the said proportion of Allay, as if it were fine Gold, and so make up a full pound of fine Gold; and do just in the same manner, value the full pound of fine Silver and then calculate what proportion is between the value of the pound of fine Gold and the value of the pound of fine Silver. To which examination, I cannot conceive what can be objected other than this, That the remedies which are allowed, being different in the Gold from the Silver, and different in themselves, in different times, must needs breed an errour in this Calculation. But to that objection I answer, that the remedies do make so small a difference that it is not considerable; and besides it were impossible to consider the remedies in this Calculation, because they are casual in the work and are supposed to fall out sometimes as well beyond the just standard as deficient: And from all Antiquity it is provided in the Indentures, that the remedies shall be allowed, if the defects appear to be casual and not voluntary. The Truth is, that they were an invention by which the Masters of the Mint made their advantage under colour of Contingency of the work, which appears to have bin first apprehended by King Henry the VII. who in the first year of his reign made the Masters of the Mint accountable to himself for so much of the remedie as was found deficient from the standard. The first clear record that I can find for the values of our Moneys, is in the eighteenth year of Edward III. and then a full pound of fine Gold was valued at 11l. of fine Silver, and eight pence over: From that time to the 25th of Edward III. there was some variety in the Moneys, but not worth the mention. But in the 25th a full pound of fine Gold was valued at 11l. of fine Silver, and 3s. 2d. over; and so it remained all Edward III. time, and all Richard II. time, and until the 13 of Henry IV; at which time both Gold and Silver were raised by advice in Parliament, upon complaint that by reason of the low prices of Gold and Silver, the Money of the Realm was exhausted. And by that Ordinance a pound of fine Gold was valued at ten pounds of fine Silver and almost one half, and so it remained all his time, and all Henry V. time, and until the 49 of Henry VI. time, and then the Gold and Silver was again raised, and a pound of Gold fine was valued at 11l. of fine Silver and 6s. over. In the fourth of Edward IV. the Gold was abased in value, and the Silver left at the same price; by which means a pound of fine Gold was valued at ten pound of fine Silver, and 6s. 7d. over. But in the 8 of Edward IV. the Gold was again raised to the former price, as it was in the 49 of Hen. VI. and so the proportion remained just the same both all Edward IV time, and Henry VII. time, and the beginning of Henry VIII. time: In 18 of Henry VIII. there were Letters Patent granted to the Cardinal of York and to such of the King’s Council, as he should call unto him, authorizing them to give such Directions, as they should think meet, for the alteration both of the standard and values of the Kings Moneys, and a Commission was accordingly issued to the Officers of the Mint to pursue the said Directions; the Colour whereof was, That the Moneys of the Realm were transported secretly by reason of the excessive raising of Moneys in France, and in the Low-Countries, and that the King, having sent unto other Princes, could obtain no redress for the raising of their Coyns: Upon this Commission did arise great confusions in the prices and standards of the Moneys; which, with certainty I cannot trace any further, because the matter passing by private direction, there are no publick Records extant of them. In the third of Edward VI. a Commission was granted to coin Gold at 22 Carrats fine, of the value of 34l. the pound: and Silver of 8 ounces fine, of the value of 4l. 16s. the Pound. whereby a pound of Gold fine was valued at 37l. and almost 2s. and a pound of Silver fine was valued as 7l. 4s. and by that rate, a pound of fine Gold was as five pound of fine Silver and 22s. over: which could not so fall out but through the excessive gain which the King did make upon the Silver more than on the Gold: and it seems that the proportion was much other between the Merchants in Bullion, for neer about the same time the King gave Commission to buy Gold for the Mint of 24 Carrats fine, at 58s. the ounce; and Silver of 12 ounces finc 5s. 4d. which is almost jj for one. These confusions did still remain all King Edward and Queen Maries Reigns, but in 14 of Queen Elizabeth the antient sterling standard both of Gold and Silver was renewed, and a pound of Gold fine valued at 11l. of fine Silver, and 7s. 10d. over: In the 24th of Elizabeth the standard of Gold was abased one quarter of a grain, and of Silver one pennyweight, but the proportion between two metals near upon the same point: And although in these times the Crown Gold was coined upon another standard, yet the proportion in the Intrinsical value was kept the same. In secundo Jacobi, the proportion was 12 for one; but every 20s. being afterwards by Proclamation raised to 22s; one pound of fine Gold of 24 carrats, is valued at 13l. of fine Silver of 12 ounces fine and one fifth over.
And these are the Antient and Modern proportions of Gold and Silver to one another in price, as punctually and authentically as by diligent search I could gather them. There is yet another proportion between mettals, which is not unnecessary to our purpose to be understood, which although I have not by mine own trial examined, yet having taken it from good Authors, I will not omit; and that is a natural and a constant proportion which mettals do hold differently to one another in weight in the same value and superficies: which is, that Gold weighs 48 parts, Quick Silver 27 parts, Silver 24 parts, Lead 22 parts, Tinn, Iron, Coper, 15 parts; which different proportion of weight was the ground of that Conclusion of Archymedes whereby he found out how much Silver the workmen of Hiero put into his Crown of Gold; and which is likewise the ground of many other subtil Conclusions, which have bin found out for the deprehension of mettals, and other mechanical works; and by this proportion those of China do examine the fineness of the Gold which is current amongst them, who by constant Relation, being said to be most subtile and exact in mechanical trials of mettals, have not the Gold which is current amongst them coined, but reduced into powder, which they do pass to one another in their commerce by weight, and do easily deprchend if there be mixture of Allay amongst it by measuring the powder, and then tempering the weight and measure together.
[* ]This is the inference drawn from the statement of Suetonius by Budæus and Casaubon (Sueton. Pitisci, vit. Jul. § 54). But other authorities reckon the proportion at about 8 to 1.