Front Page Titles (by Subject) Cotton, A SPEECH touching the Alteration of Coin. - A Select Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts on Money
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Cotton, A SPEECH touching the Alteration of Coin. - 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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A SPEECH touching the Alteration of Coin.
SINCE it hath pleased this Honourable Table to command, amongst others, my poor Opinion concerning this weighty Proposition of Money, I most humbly crave pardon, if with that Freedom that becomes my Duty to my good and gracious Master, and my Obedience to your great Command, I deliver it so up.
I cannot (my good Lords) but assuredly conceive,Honour, Justice, and Profit. that this intended Project of infeebling the Coin, will trench both into the Honor, the Justice, and the Profit of my Royal Master very far.
All Estates do stand Magis Famâ quam Vi, as TacitusHonour. saith of Rome: And wealth in every Kingdom is one of the essential Marks of their Greatness: And that is best expressed in the Measure and Purity of their Monies. Hence was it, that so long as the Roman Empire (a Pattern of best Government) held up their Glory and Greatness, they ever maintained, with little or no Change, the Standard of their Coin. But after the loose times of Commodus had led in Need by Excess, and so that Shift of Changing the Standard, the Majesty of that Empire fell by degrees. And as Vopiscus saith, the steps by which that State descended, were visibly known most by the gradual Alteration of their Coin; and there is no surer Symptom of a Consumption in State, than the Corruption in Money.
What renown is left to the Posterity of Edward I.Edw. I. in amending the Standard, both in Purity and Weight from that of elder and more barbarous times, must stick as a blemish upon Princes that do the contrary.VI. Thus we see it was with Henry VI. who, after he had begun with abating the Measure, he after fell to abasing the Matter; and granted Commissions to Missenden and others to practise Alchimy to serve his Mint. The extremity of the State in general felt this Aggrievance; besides the Dishonour it laid upon the Person of the King, was not the least Advantage his disloyal Kinsman took to grace himself into the Peoples Favour, to his Sovereign’s Ruine.
VIII.When Henry VIII. had gained as much of Power and Glory abroad, of Love and Obedience at home, as ever any; he suffered Shipwreck of all on this Rock.
Eliz.When his daughter Q. Elizabeth came to the Crown, she was happy in Council to Amend that Error of her Father: For, in a Memorial of the Lord Treasurer Burleigh’s hand, I find that he and Sir Tho. Smith (a grave and learned Man), advising the Queen, that it was the Honour of her Crown, and the true Wealth of herself and People, to reduce the Standard to the ancient Parity and purity of her Great GrandfatherIV.King Edw. IV. And that it was not the short ends of Wit, nor starting holes of Devices, than can sustain the Expence of a Monarchy, but sound and solid Courses: For so are the words. She followed their Advice, and began to reduce the Monies to their elder goodness, stiling that Work in her first Proclamation Anno 3. A Famous Act. The next Year following, having perfected it as it after stood; she tells her People by another Edict, that she had conquered now that Monster that had so long devoured them, meaning the Variation of the Standard: And so long as that staid Adviser lived, she never (though often by Projectors importuned) could be drawn to any shift or change in the Rate of her Monies.
To avoid the Trick of Permutation, Coin was devised, as a Rate and Measure of Merchandize and Manufactures; which if mutable, no Man can tell either what he hath, or what he oweth;Justice. no Contract can be certain; and so all Commerce, both publick and private, destroyed; and Men again enforced to Permutation with things not subject to Wit or Fraud.
The Regulating of Coin hath been left to the care of Princes, who are presumed to be ever the Fathers of the Common-wealth. Upon their Honours they are Debtors and Warranties of Justice to the Subject in that behalf. They cannot, saith Bodin,Bodin. alter the Price of the Monies, to the Prejudice of the Subjects, without incurring the Reproach of Faux Monnoyeurs. And therefore the Stories term Philip le Bell, for using it, Falsificateur de Moneta. Omnino Monetæ integritas debet queri ubi vultus noster imprimitur,Theodoret the Goth. saith Theodoret the Goth to his Mint-Master, Quidnam erit tutum si in nostra peccetur Effigie? Princes must not suffer their Faces to warrant Falshood.
Mirror des Justices.Although I am not of opinion with Mirror des Justices, the ancient Book of our Common-Law, that Le Roy ne poit sa Mony Empeirer ne amender sans l’assent de touts ses Counts, which was the greatest Council of the Kingdom; yet can I not pass over the Goodness and Grace of many of our Kings (as Edw. I. and III. Hen. IV. and V. with others, who out of that Rule of this Justice, Quod ad omnes spectat, ab omnibus debet approburi, have often advised with the People in Parliament, both for the Allay, Weight, Number of Pieces, rate of Coinage and Exchange): and must with infinite Comfort acknowledg, the Care and Justice now of my good Master, and your Lordships Wisdoms, that would not upon information of some few Officers of the Mint, before a free and careful Debate, put in execution this Project, that I much (under your Honours Favour suspect, would have taken away the tenth part of every Man’s due Debt, or Rent already reserved throughout the Realm, not sparing the King which would have been little less than a Species of that which the Roman stories call Tabulæ novæ, from whence very often Seditions have sprung: As that of Marcus Gratidianus in Livy, who pretending in his Consulship that the current Mony was wasted by Use, called it in, and altered the Standard; which grew so heavy and grievous to the People, as the Author saith, because no man thereby knew certainly his Wealth, that it caused a Tumult.
Profit.In this last part, which is, the Disprofit this infeebling the Coin will bring both to his Majesty and the Common-wealth, I must distinguish the Monies of Gold and Silver, as they are Bullion or Commodities, and as they are Measure: One the extrinsick Quality, which is at the King’s pleasure, as all other Measures to name; the other the intrinsick Quantity of pure Mettal, which is in the Merchant to value. As there the Measure shall be either lessened or inlarged, so is the quantity of the Commodity that is to be exchanged. If then the King shall cut his Shilling or Pound nominal less than it was before, a less proportion of such Commodities as shall be exchanged for it must be received. It must then of force follow, that all things of necessity, as Victual, Apparel, and the rest, as well as those of Pleasure, must be inhaunced. If then all Men shall receive in their Shillings and Pounds a less proportion of Silver and Gold than they did before this projected Alteration, and pay for what they buy a rate inhaunced, it must cast upon all a double Loss.
What the King will suffer by it in the Rents of his Lands, is demonstrated enough by the Alterations since the 18 of Edw. III. when all the Revenue of the Crown came into the Receipt Pondere & Numero, after five Groats in the Ounce; which since that time, by the several Changes of the Standard is come to five Shillings, whereby the King hath lost two third parts of his just Revenue.
In his Customs, the Book of Rates being regulated by Pounds and Shillings, his Majesty must lose alike; and so in all and whatsoever Monies that after this he shall receive.
The profit by this Change in Coinage, cannot be much nor manent. In the other the loss lasting, and so large, that it reacheth to little less than yearly to a sixth part of his whole Revenue: for hereby in every pound tale of Gold there is seven Ounces, one penny weight, and 19 Grains loss, which is 25l. in account, and in the 100l. tale of Silver 59 Ounces, which is 14l. 17s. more.
And as his Majesty shall undergo all these Losses hereafter in all his Receipts; so shall he no less in many of his Disbursements. The Wages of his Soldiers must be rateably advanced as the Mony is decreased. This Edward the Third (as appeareth by the account of the Wardrobe and Exchequer) as all the Kings after were enforced to do, as oft as they lessened the Standard of their Monies. The prices of what shall be bought for his Majesties Service, must in like proportion be inhaunced on him. And as his Majesty hath the greatest of Receipts and Issues, so must he of necessity taste the most of Loss by this device.
It will discourage a great proportion of the Trade in England, and so impair his Majesties Customs. For that part (being not the least) that payeth upon trust and credit, will be overthrown; for all men being doubtful of diminution hereby of their personal Estates, will call in their Monies already out, and no man will part with that which is by him, upon such apparent Loss as this must bring. What danger may befal the State by such a sudden stand of Trade, I cannot guess.
The Monies of Gold and Silver formerly coined and abroad, being richer than these intended, will be made for the most part hereby Bullion, and so transported; which I conceive to be none of the least inducements that hath drawn so many Goldsmiths to side this Project, that they may be thereby Factors for the Strangers, who by the lowness of minting (being but 2s. Silver the pound Weight, and 4s. for Gold; whereas with us the one is 4s. and the other 5s.) may make that Profit beyond-sea they cannot here, and so his Majesties Mint unset on work.
And as his Majesty shall lose apparently in the alteration of Monies a 14th in all the Silver, and a 25th part in all the Gold he after shall receive; so shall the Nobility, Gentry, and all other, in all their former setled Rents, Annuities, Pensions, and Loans of Mony. The like will fall upon the Laborers and Workmen in their Statute-Wages: and as their Receipts are lessened hereby; so are their Issues increased, either by improving all prices, or disfurnishing the Market, which must necessarily follow: For if in 5 Edw. 6. 3. Mariæ, and 4. Elizabethæ, it appeareth by the Proclamations, that a Rumor only of an Alteration caused these effects, punishing the Author of such reports with Imprisonment and Pillory; it cannot be doubted but the projecting a Change must be of far more consequence and danger to the State, and would be wished that the Actors and Authors of such disturbances in the Common-wealth, at all times hereafter might undergo a Punishment proportionable.
It cannot be held (I presume) an Advice of best judgment that layeth the Loss upon our selves, and the Gain upon our Enemies: for who is like to be in this time the greater Thriver? Is it not visible, that the Stranger that transporteth over Monies for Bullion, our own Goldsmiths that are their Brokers, and the forein Hedg-minters of the Netherlands (which terms them well) have a fresh and full Trade by this abatement? And we cannot do the Spanish King (our greatest Enemy) so great a Favour as by this, who being the Lord of this Commodity by his West-Indies, we shall so advance them to our impoverishing; for it is not in the power of any State to raise the price of their own but the value that their Neighbour Princes acceptance sets upon them.
Experience hath taught us, that the enfeebling of Coin is but a shift for a while, as Drink to one in a Dropsie, to make him swell the more: But the State was never thoroughly cured, as we saw by Hen. the Eighth’s time and the late Queens, until the Coin was made rich again.
I cannot but then conclude (my Honourable Lords) that if the Proportion of Gold and Silver to each other be wrought to that Parity, by the Advice of Artists, that neither may be too rich for the other, that the Mintage may be reduced to some proportion of Neighbour Parts, and that the Issue of our Native Commodities may be brought to overburthen the entrance of the Forein, we need not seek any way of shift, but shall again see our Trade to flourish, the Mint (as the Pulse of the Common-wealth) again to beat, and our Materials, by Industry, to be a Mine of Gold and Silver to us, and the Honour, Justice, and Profit of his Majesty, (which we all wish and work for) supported.
The Answer of the Committees appointed by your Lordships to the Proposition delivered by some Officers of the Mint, for infeebling his Majesties Monies of Gold and Silver.
September 2. 1626.
The First Part.
WE conceive that the Officers of the Mint are bound by Oath to discharge their several Duties in their several places respectively. But we cannot conceive how they should stand tyed by Oath to account to his Majesty and your Honours of the intrinsick value of all Forein Coins, and how they agree with the Standard of the State (before they come to the Mint) for it is impossible and needless: In the one, for that all Forein States do, for the most part, differ from us and our Mony infinitely amongst themselves: In the other, it being the proper care of the Merchants, who are presumed not to purchase that at a dearer rate than they may be allowed for the same in fine Gold and Silver in the Coin of England, within the charge of Coinage. And therefore needless.
To induce the necessity of the Proposition, they produce two instances or examples: The one from the Rix Dollar, and the other from the Royal of Eight; wherein they have untruly informed your Honours of the price and value in our Monies, and our Trade of both of them. For whereas they say that the Rix Dollar weigheth 18. pen. weight and 12 Grains, and to be of the finest at the pound weight, 10 Ounces, 10d. weight doth produce in exchange 5s. 2d. farthing of Sterling Monies. We do affirm that the same Dollar is 18d. weight, 18 Grains, and in fineness 10 Ounces 12d. weight, equal to 4s. 5d. ob. of Sterling Monies, and is at this time in London at no higher price, which is short thereof by 13 Grains and a half fine Silver upon every Dollar, being 2d. Sterling, or thereabout, being the charge of Coinage, with a small recompence to the Goldsmith or Exchanger, to the Profit of England 3s. 6d. per cent.
Whereas they do in their proposition aver unto your Honours, that this Dollar runs in account of Trade amongst the Merchants, as 5s. 2d. ob. English Mony: It is most false. For the Merchants and best experienced men protest the contrary, and that it passeth in Exchange according to the intrinsick value only 4s. 5d. ob. of the Sterling Mony or near thereabouts, and not otherwise.
The second instance is in the Royal of Eight, affirming that it weigheth 17 penny weight, 12 Grains; and being but of the fineness of 11 Ounces at the pound weight, doth pass in Exchange at 5s. of our Sterling Monies, whereby we lose 6s. 7d. in every pound weight. But having examined it by the best Artists, we find it to be 11 Ounces 2d. weight fine, and in weight 17 pennyweight, 12 Grains, which doth equal 4s. 4d. ob. of our Sterling Monies, and passeth in London at that rate, and not otherwise, though holding more fine Silver by 12 Grains and a half in every Royal of Eight which is the charge of Coinage, and a small overplus for the Goldsmiths gain. And whereas they say, that that the said Royal of Eight runs in account of Trade at 5s. of his Majesties now English Mony, the Merchants do all affirm the contrary, and that it passeth only at 4s. 4 ob. of the Sterling Monies, and no higher ordinarily.
And it must be strange (my Honourable Lords) to believe that our Neighbours the Netherlanders, would give for a pound tale of our Sterling Silver, by what name soever it passeth, a greater quantity of their Monies in the like intrinsick value by Exchange; or that our Merchants would, knowing, give a greater for a less to them, except by way of usance. But the Deceipt is herein only, that they continually varying their Coin, and crying it up at pleasure, may deceive us for a time, in too high a Reputation of pure Silver in it, upon trust, than there is unto a Tryal; and this, by no Alteration of our Coin, unless we should daily, as they, make his Majesties Standard uncertain, can be prevented, which being the measure of Lands, Rents, and Commerce amongst our selves at home, would render all uncertain, and so of necessity destroy the use of Mony, and turn all to permutation of such things as were not subject to will or change.
And as they have mistaken the Ground of their Proposition; so have they upon a specious shew of some momentary and small Benefit to his Majesty, reared up a vast and constant Loss unto his Highness by this design, if once effected. For, as his Majesty hath the largest proportion of any both in the entrances and issues; so should he by so enfeebling of his Coin, become the greatest loser.
There needs no other instance than those degrees of diminution from the 18 of Edward III. to this day; at which time the Revenue of the Crown was paid after five Groats the Ounce (which is now five Shillings) which hath lost his Majesty two Thirds of all his Revenue; and no less hath all the Nobility, Gentry, and other his Majesties Landed Subjects in proportion suffered. But since, to our great Comfort, we heard your Honours the last day to lay a worthy blame upon the Mint-Masters, for that intended diminution of the Gold Coin done by them without full Warrant, by which we rest discharged of that Fear: We will (according to our Duties and your Honours command) deliver humbly our Opinion concerning the reduction of the Silver Mony now current to be proportionably equivalent to the Gold.
The English sterling Standard, which was no little Honour to Edward the first, that setled it from an inconstant motion, and laid it a ground, that all the States of Europe after complyed to bring in their account, which was of Silver as eleven to one of Gold, the Kings of England for the most part since have constantly continued the same proportion: and Spain, since Ferdinand, who took from hence his Pattern, have held and hold unchangeably the same unto this day: but since with us, a late improvement of Gold hath broke that Rule, and cast a difference in our Silver of six Shillings in the pound weight; we cannot but with all humility present our Fear, that the framing, at this time, of an equality, except it were by reducing the Gold to the Silver, is not so safe and profitable as is proposed by those of the Mint.
For whereas they pretend this, Our richness of our Silver will carry out what now remaineth: We conceive (under favour) it will have no such effect, but clean contrary. For all the current Silver now abroad hath been so culled by some Goldsmiths and others, the same either turned into Bullion, and so transported, that that which now remaineth will hardly produce 3l. 5s. in the pound weight one with another; and so not likely for so little profit as now it giveth, to be transported. But if the Pound sterling should be as they desire, cut into 70s. 6d. it must of necessity follow, that the new Mony will convert the old Mony (now current) into Bullion; and so afford a Trade afresh for some ill Patriot Goldsmiths, and others, who formerly have more endamaged the State by Culling, than any others by Clipping; the one but trading in Pounds, the other in Thousands; and therefore worthy of a greater Punishment. And we cannot but have just cause (my Lords) to fear that these bad Members have been no idle Instruments, for their private Benefit, to the publick Detriment of this new Project, so much tending to enfeebling the Sterling Standard.
We further (under your Lordships favours) conceive that the raising the Silver to the Gold, will upon some sudden occasion beyond Sea transport our Gold, and leave the State in scarcity of that, as now of Silver.
And to that Objection of the Proposers, That there is no Silver brought of late into the Mint: The Causes we conceive to be (besides the unusual quantities of late brought into the Mint in Gold) one the overballansing of late Trade, the other the charge of Coinage. For the first, it cannot be but the late Infection of this City was a lett of Exportation of our best Commodity, Cloth, made by that suspected in every place. To this may be added the vast Sums of Mony which the necessary Occasions of War called from his Majesty to the parts beyond the Seas, when we had least of Commodities to make even the ballance there. And lastly, Dearth and scarcity of Corn, which in time of Plenty we ever found the best Exchange to bring in Silver. And therefore, since by God’s great favour the Plague is ended, and general Trade thereby restored, and more of Plenty this year than hath been formerly these many years of Corn, we doubt not but if the Ports of Spain were now as free as they were of late, there would not prove hereafter any Cause to complain of the want of Bullion in the State.
The second Cause, that the Mint remains unfurnished, will be the charge of Coinage, raised in price so far above all other places, constraining each man to carry his Bullion where he may receive by Coinage the less of loss. And therefore if it may please his Majesty to reduce the prices here to the Rates of other of our Neighbour Countries, there will be no doubt but the Mint will beat as heretofore.
QUESTIONS to be proposed to the Merchants, Mint Masters, and Goldsmiths concerning the Alteration of the Silver-Monies.
1. WHETHER the English Monies now current are not as dear as the Forrein of the Dollar and Real of 8. in the intrinsick Value in the usual Exchanges now made by the Merchants beyond Seas.
2. Whether this advancing will not cause all the Silver Bullion, that might be transported in Mass or Forrein Coin, to be minted with the King’s Stamp beyond Sea, and so transported, and his Mint thereby set less on work than now?
3. Whether the advancing the Silver Coin in England will not cause a transportation of most of that that is now current to be minted in the Netherlands, and from them brought back again, whereby his Majesties Mint will fail by the exported benefit?
4. Whether the advancing the Silver Coin, if it produce the former Effects, will not cause the Markets to be unfurnished of present Coin to drive the Exchange, when most of the old will be used in Bullion?
5. Whether the higher we raise the Coin at home, we make not thereby our Commodities beyond Sea the cheaper?
6. Whether the greatest Profit by this inhauncing, will not grow to the ill Members of the State, that have formerly culled the weightiest Pieces and sold them to the Stranger-Merchants to be transported?
Certain General RULES collected concerning Money and Bullion out of the late Consultation at Court.
GOLD and Silver have a two-fold Estimation: In the extrinsick, as they are Monies, they are the Princes Measures given to his People, and this is a Prerogative of Kings: in the intrinsick, they are Commodities, valuing each other according to the plenty or scarcity; and so all other Commodities by them; and that is the sole power of Trade.
The Measures in a Kingdom ought to be constant: It is the Justice and Honour of the King; for if they be altered, all Men at that instant are deceived in their precedent Contracts, either for Lands or Mony, and the King most of all; for no Man knoweth then, either what he hath or what he oweth.
1573.This made the L. Treasurer Burleigh in 1573. when some Projectors had set on foot a matter of this nature, to tell them that they were worthy to suffer Death for attempting to put so great a Dishonour on the Queen, and Detriment and Discontent upon the People. For, to alter this publick Measure, is to leave all the Markets of the Kingdom unfurnished; and what will be the Mischief,5 Edw. VI.the Proclamations of 5 Edw. VI. 3 Mariæ, and 4 Eliz. will manifest;3 Mariæ. when but a rumor of the like produced that Effect to far,4 Eliz. that besides the Faith of the Princes to the contrary delivered in their Edicts, they were inforced to cause the Magistrates in every Shire respectively to constrain the people to furnish the Markets to prevent a Mutiny.
To make this Measure then, at this time short, is to raise all Prizes, or to turn the Mony or Measure now currant into disuse or Bullion: For who will part with any, when it is richer by seven in the Hundred in the Mass, than the new Monies, and yet of no more value in the Market?
Hence of necessity it must follow, that there will not in a long time be sufficient minted of the new to drive the Exchange of the Kingdom, and so all Trade at one instant at a stand; and in the mean time the Markets unfurnished: Which how it may concern the quiet of the State, is worthy care. And thus far as Money is a Measure.
Now, as it is a Commodity, it is respected and valued by the intrinsick quality. And first the one Metal to the other.
All Commodities are prized by plenty or scarcity, by dearness or cheapness, the one by the other: if then we desire our Silver to buy Gold, as it of late hath done, we must let it be the cheaper, and less in proportion valued, and so contrary: For one equivalent proportion in both will bring in neither. We see the proof thereof by the unusual quantity of Gold brought lately to the Mint by reason of the Price; for we rate it above all other Countries, and Gold may be bought too dear. To furnish then this way the Mint with both, is altogether impossible.
And at this time it was apparently proved, both by the best Artists and Merchants most acquainted with the Exchange, in both the Examples of the Mintmasters in the Rix-dollar and Real of 8, that Silver here is of equal value, and Gold above, with the forein Parts in the intrinsick; and that the fallacy presented to the Lords by the Mint-masters, is only in the nomination or extrinsick quality.
But if we desire both, it is not raising of the Value that doth it, but the ballansing of Trade; for buy we in more than we sell of other Commodities, be the Money never so high prized, we must part with it to make the disproportion even: If we sell more than we buy, the contrary will follow.
And this is plain in Spain’s Necessities: For should that King advance to a double rate his Real of 8. yet needing, by reason of the barrenness of his Country, more of forein Wares than he can contervail by exchange with his own, he must part with his Money, and gaineth no more by inhauncing his Coin, but that he payeth a higher price for the Commodities he buyeth, if his Work of raising be his own. But if we shall make improvement of Gold and Silver, being the staple Commodity of his State, we then advancing the price of his, abase to him our own Commodities.
To shape this Kingdom to the fashion of the Netherlanders, were to frame a Royal Monarch by a Society of Merchants. Their country is a continual Fair, and so the Price of Money must rise and fall to fit their Occasions. We see this by raising the Exchange at Frankfort and other places at the usual times of their Marts.
The frequent and daily change in the low Countries of their Monies, is no such injustice to any there, as it would be here. For being all either Mechanicks or Merchants, they can rate accordingly their Labours or their Wares, whether it be Coin or other Merchandise, to the present condition of their own mony in Exchange.
And our English Merchants, to whose Profession it properly belongs, do so according to the just intrinsick value of their Forein Coin, in all barter of Commodities or Exchange except at Usance; which we, that are ruled and tyed by the extrinsick measure of Monies, in all our constant Reckonings and annual Bargains at home, cannot do.
And for us then to raise our Coin at this time to equal their Proportions, were but to render ourselves to a perpetual incertainty: For they will raise upon us daily then again; which if we of course should follow, else receive no Profit by this present Change, we then destroy the Policy, Justice, Honour and Tranquillity of our State at home for ever.
OF HIS MAJESTY’S
Council of Trade,
The Exportation of Gold and Silver,
FOREIGN COINS & BULLION.
Concluded 11th December, 1660.