Front Page Titles (by Subject) [I.xi.d] part iii: Of the Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of that Sort of Produce which always affords Rent, and of that which sometimes does, and sometimes does not, afford Rent - Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2a An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 1
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[I.xi.d] part iii: Of the Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of that Sort of Produce which always affords Rent, and of that which sometimes does, and sometimes does not, afford Rent - Adam Smith, Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence Vol. 2a An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. 1 
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol. I ed. R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, vol. II of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Of the Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of that Sort of Produce which always affords Rent, and of that which sometimes does, and sometimes does not, afford Rent
3The great market for silver is the commercial and civilized part of the world.
4If by the general progress of improvement the demand of this market should increase, while at the same time the supply did not increase in the same proportion, the value of silver would gradually rise in proportion to that of corn. Any given quantity of silver would exchange for a greater and a greater quantity of corn; or, in other words, the average money price of corn would gradually become cheaper and cheaper.
5If, on the contrary, the supply by some accident should increase for many years together in a greater proportion than the demand, that metal would gradually become cheaper and cheaper; or, in other words, the average money price of corn would, in spite of all improvements, gradually become dearer and dearer.1
6But if, on the other hand, the supply of the metal should increase nearly in the same proportion as the demand, it would continue to purchase or exchange for nearly the same quantity of corn, and the average money price of corn would, in spite of all improvements, continue very nearly the same.
7These three seem to exhaust all the possible combinations of events which can happen in the progress of improvement; and during the course of the four centuries preceding the present, if we may judge by what has happened both in France and Great Britain, each of those three different combinations seem to have taken place in the European market, and nearly in the same order too in which I have here set them down.
Digression concerning the Variations in the Value of Silver during the Course of the Four last Centuries
1In 1350, and for some time before, the average price of the quarter of wheat in England seems not to have been estimated lower than four ounces of silver, Tower–weight, equal to about twenty shillings of our present money. From this price it seems to have fallen gradually to two ounces of silver, equal to about ten shillings of our present money, the price at which we find it estimated in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and at which it seems to have continued to be estimated till about 1570.
2In 1350, being the 25th of Edward III, was enacted what is called, The statute of labourers.1 In the preamble it complains much of the insolence of servants, who endeavoured to raise their wages upon their masters.2 It therefore ordains, that all servants and labourers should for the future be contented with the same wages and liveries (liveries in those times signified, not only cloaths, but provisions) which they had been accustomed to receive in the 20th year of the king, and the four preceding years; that upon this account their livery wheat should no where be estimated higher than ten–pence a bushel, and that it should always be in the option of the master to deliver them either the wheat or the money. Ten–pence a bushel, therefore, had in the 25th of Edward III, been reckoned a very moderate price of wheat, since it required a particular statute to oblige servants to accept of it in exchange for their usual livery of provisions; and it had been reckoned a reasonable price ten years before that, or in the 16th year of the king, the term to which the statute refers. But in the 16th year of Edward III, ten–pence contained about half an ounce of silver, Tower–weight, and was nearly equal to half a crown of our present money.3 Four ounces of silver, Tower–weight, therefore, equal to six shillings and eight–pence of the money of those times, and to near twenty shillings of that of the present, must have been reckoned a moderate price for the quarter of eight bushels.
3This statute is surely a better evidence of what was reckoned in those times a moderate price of grain, than the prices of some particular years which have generally been recorded by historians and other writers on account of their extraordinary dearness or cheapness, and from which, therefore, it is difficult to form any judgment concerning what may have been the ordinary price.4 There are, besides, other reasons for believing that in the beginning of the fourteenth century, and for some time before, the common price of wheat was not less than four ounces of silver the quarter, and that of other grain in proportion.
4In 1309, Ralph de Born, prior of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury, gave a feast upon his installation–day, of which William Thorn has preserved, not only the bill of fare, but the prices of many particulars. In that feast were consumed, 1st, fifty–three quarters of wheat, which cost nineteen pounds, or seven shillings and two–pence a quarter, equal to about one–and–twenty shillings and six–pence of our present money: 2dly, Fifty–eight quarters of malt, which cost seventeen pounds ten shillings, or six shillings a quarter, equal to about eighteen shillings of our present money: 3dly, Twenty quarters of oats, which cost four pounds, or four shillings a quarter, equal to about twelve shillings of our present money.5 The prices of malt and oats seem here to be higher than their ordinary proportion to the price of wheat.
5These prices are not recorded on account of their extraordinary dearness or cheapness, but are mentioned accidentally as the prices actually paid for large quantities of grain consumed at a feast which was famous for its magnificence.
6In 1262, being the 51st of Henry III, was revived an ancient statute called, The Assize of Bread and Ale,6 which, the king says in the preamble, had been made in the times of his progenitors sometime kings of England. It is probably, therefore, as old at least as the time of his grandfather Henry II, and may have been as old as the conquest. It regulates the price of bread according as the prices of wheat may happen to be, from one shilling to twenty shillings the quarter of the money of those times. But statutes of this kind are generally presumed to provide with equal care for all deviations from the middle price, for those below it as well as for those above it. Ten shillings, therefore, containing six ounces of silver, Tower–weight, and equal to about thirty shillings of our present money, must, upon this supposition, have been reckoned the middle price of the quarter of wheat when this statute was first enacted, and must have continued to be so in the 51st of Henry III. We cannot therefore be very a wrong in supposing that the middle price was not less than one–third of the highest price at which this statute regulates the price of bread, or than six shillings and eight–pence of the money of those times, containing four ounces of silver, Tower–weight.
7From these different facts, therefore, we seem to have some reason to conclude, that about the middle of the fourteenth century, and for a considerable time before, the average or ordinary price of the quarter of wheat was not supposed to be less than four ounces of silver, Towerweight.7
8From about the middle of the fourteenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century, what was reckoned the reasonable and moderate, that is the ordinary or average price of wheat, seems to have sunk gradually to about one–half of this price; so as at last to have fallen to about two ounces of silver, Tower–weight, equal to about ten shillings of our present money. It continued to be estimated at this price till about 1570.
9In the houshold book of Henry, the fifth earl of Northumberland, drawn up in 1512, there are two different estimations of wheat. In one of them it is computed at six–shillings and eight–pence the quarter, in the other at five shillings and eight–pence only.8 In 1512, six shillings and eight–pence contained only two ounces of silver Tower–weight, and were equal to about ten shillings of our present money.
10From the 25th of Edward III, to the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth, during the space of more than two hundred years, six shillings and eight–pence, it appears from several different statutes, had continued to be considered as what is called the moderate and reasonable, that is the ordinary or average price of wheat. The quantity of silver, however, contained in that nominal sum was, during the course of this period, continually diminishing, in consequence of some alterations which were made in the coin. But the increase of the value of silver had, it seems, so far compensated the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the same nominal sum, that the legislature did not think it worth while to attend to this circumstance.
11Thus in 1436 it was enacted, that wheat might be exported without a licence when the price was so low as six shillings and eight–pence:9 And in 1463 it was enacted, that no wheat should be imported if the price was not above six shillings and eight–pence the quarter.10 The legislature had imagined, that when the price was so low, there could be no inconveniency in exportation, but that when it rose higher, it became prudent to allow of importation. Six shillings and eight–pence, therefore, containing about the same quantity of silver as thirteen shillings and four–pence of our present money (one third part less than the same nominal sum contained in the time of Edward III.), had in those times been considered as what is called the moderate and reasonable price of wheat.
12In 1554, by the 1st and 2d of Philip and Mary;11 and in 1558, by the 1st of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was in the same manner prohibited, whenever the price of the quarter should exceed six shillings and eight–pence,12 which did not then contain two penny worth more silver than the same nominal sum does at present. But it had soon been found that to restrain the exportation of wheat till the price was so very low, was, in reality, to prohibit it altogether. In 1562, therefore, by the 5th of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was allowed from certain ports whenever the price of the quarter should not exceed ten shillings,13 containing nearly the same quantity of silver as the like nominal sum does at present. This price had at this time, therefore, been considered as what is called the moderate and reasonable price of wheat. It agrees nearly with the estimation of the Northumberland book in 1512.
13That in France the average price of grain was, in the same manner, much lower in the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century, than in the two centuries preceding, has been observed both by Mr. Duprè de St. Maur,14 and by the elegant author of the Essay on the police of grain.15 Its price, during the same period, had probably sunk in the same manner through the greater part of Europe.
14This rise in the value of silver in proportion to that of corn, may either have been owing altogether to the increase of the demand for that metal, in consequence of increasing improvement and cultivation, the supply in the mean time continuing the same as before: Or, the demand continuing the same as before, it may have been owing altogether to the gradual diminution of the supply; the greater part of the mines which were then known in the world, being much exhausted, and consequently the expence of working them much increased: Or it may have been owing partly to the one and partly to the other of those two circumstances. In the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries, the greater part of Europe was approaching towards a more settled form of government than it had enjoyed for several ages before. The increase of security would naturally increase industry and improvement; and the demand for the precious metals, as well as for every other luxury and ornament, would naturally increase with the increase of riches. A greater annual produce would require a greater quantity of coin to circulate it; and a greater number of rich people would require a greater quantity of plate and other ornaments of silver. It is natural to suppose too, that the greater part of the mines which then supplied the European market with silver, might be a good deal exhausted, and have become more expensive in the working. They had been wrought many of them from the time of the Romans.
15It has been the opinion, however, of the greater part of those who have written upon the prices of commodities in antient times, that, from the Conquest, perhaps from the invasion of Julius Caesar till the discovery of the mines of America, the value of silver was continually diminishing.16 This opinion they seem to have been led into, partly by the observations which they had occasion to make upon the prices both of corn and of some other parts of the rude produce of land; and partly by the popular notion, that as the quantity of silver naturally increases in every country with the increase of wealth, so its value diminishes as its quantity increases.
16In their observations upon the prices of corn, three different circumstances seem frequently to have misled them.
17First, In antient times almost all rents were paid in kind; in a certain quantity of corn, cattle, poultry, &c. It sometimes happened, however, that the landlord would stipulateb , that he should be at liberty to demand cof the tenant,c either the annual payment in kind, or a certain sum of money instead of it. The price at which the payment in kind was in this manner exchanged for a certain sum of money, is in Scotland called the conversion price. As the option is always in the landlord to take either the substance or the price, it is necessary for the safety of the tenant, that the conversion price should rather be below than above the average market price. In many places, accordingly, it is not much above one–half of this price. Through the greater part of Scotland this custom still continues with regard to poultry, and in some places with regard to cattle. It might probably have continued to take place too with regard to corn, had not the institution of the publick fiars put an end to it. These are annual valuations, according to the judgment of an assize, of the average price of all the different sorts of grain, and of all the different qualities of each, according to the actual market price in every different county.17 This institution rendered it sufficiently safe for the tenant, and much more convenient for the landlord, to convert, as they call it, the corn rentd, rather at what should happen to bed the price of the fiars of each year,e than at any certain fixed price.18 But the writers who have collected the prices of corn in antient times, seem frequently to have mistaken what is called in Scotland the conversion price for the actual market price.19 Fleetwood acknowledges, upon one occasion, that he had made this mistake. As he wrote his book, however, for a particular purpose, he does not think proper to make this acknowledgment till after transcribing this conversion price fifteen times.20 The price is eight shillings the quarter of wheat. This sum in 1423, the year at which he begins with it, contained the same quantity of silver as sixteen shillings of our present money. But in 1562, the year at which he ends with it, it contained no more than the same nominal sum does at present.
18Secondly, They have been misled by the slovenly manner in which some antient statutes of assize had been sometimes transcribed by lazy copiers; and sometimes perhaps actually composed by the legislature.
19The antient statutes of assize seem to have begun always with determining what ought to be the price of bread and ale when the price of wheat and barley were at the lowest, and to have proceeded gradually to determine what it ought to be, according as the prices of those two sorts of grain should gradually rise above this lowest price. But the transcribers of those statutes seem frequently to have thought it sufficient, to copy the regulation as far as the three or four first and lowest prices; saving in this manner their own labour, and judging, I suppose, that this was enough to show what proportion ought to be observed in all higher prices.
20Thus in the assize of bread and ale, of the 51st of Henry III. the price of bread was regulated according to the different prices of wheat, from one shilling to twenty shillings the quarter, of the money of those times. But in the manuscripts from which all the different editions of the statutes, preceding that of Mr. Ruffhead, were printed, the copiers had never transcribed this regulation beyond the price of twelve shillings.21 Several writers, therefore, being misled by this faulty transcription, very naturally concluded that the middle price, or six shillings the quarter, equal to about eighteen shillings of our present money, was the ordinary or average price of wheat at that time.
21In the statute of Tumbrel and Pillory, enacted nearly about the same time,22 the price of ale is regulated according to every sixpence rise in the price of barley, from two shillings to four shillings the quarter. That four shillings, however, was not considered as the highest price to which barley might frequently rise in those times, and that these prices were only given as an example of the proportion which ought to be observed in all other prices, whether higher or lower, we may infer from the last words of the statute; “et sic deinceps crescetur vel diminuetur per sex denarios”. The expression is very slovenly, but the meaning is plain enough; “That the price of ale is in this manner to be increased or diminished according to every six–pence rise or fall in the price of barley”. In the composition of this statute the legislature itself seems to have been as negligent as the copiers were in the transcription of the other.23
22In an antient manuscript of the Regiam Majestatem,24 an old Scotch law book, there is a statute of assize, in which the price of bread is regulated according to all the different prices of wheat, from ten–pence to three shillings the Scotch boll, equal to about half an English quarter. Three shillings Scotch, at the time when this assize is supposed to have been enacted, were equal to about nine shillings sterling of our present money. Mr. Ruddiman seems* to conclude from this, that three shillings was the highest price to which wheat ever rose in those times, and that ten–pence, a shilling, or at most two shillings, were the ordinary prices. Upon consulting the manuscript, however, it appears evidently, that all these prices are only set down as examples of the proportion which ought to be observed between the respective prices of wheat and bread. The last words of the statute are, “reliqua judicabis secundum praescripta habendo respectum ad pretium bladi.” “You shall judge of the remaining cases according to what is above written having a respect to the price of corn.”
23Thirdly, They seem to have been misled too by the very low price at which wheat was sometimes sold in very antient times; and to have imagined, that as its lowest price was then much lower than in later times, its ordinary price must likewise have been much lower. They might have found, however, that in those antient times, its highest price was fully as much above, as its lowest price was below any thing that had ever been known in later times. Thus in 1270, Fleetwood gives us two prices of the quarter of wheat.25 The one is four pounds sixteen shillings of the money of those times, equal to fourteen pounds eight shillings of that of the present; the other is six pounds eight shillings, equal to nineteen pounds four shillings of our present money. No price can be found in the end of the fifteenth, or beginning of the sixteenth century, which approaches to the extravagance of these. The price of corn, though at all times liable to gvariationsg varies most in those turbulent and disorderly societies, in which the interruption of all commerce and communication hinders the plenty of one part of the country from relieving the scarcity of another.26 In the disorderly state of England under the Plantagenets, who governed it from about the middle of the twelfth, till towards the end of the fifteenth century, one district might be in plenty, while another at no great distance, by having its crop destroyed either by some accident of the seasons, or by the incursion of some neighbouring baron, might be suffering all the horrors of a famine; and yet if the lands of some hostile lord were interposed between them, the one might not be able to give the least assistance to the other. Under the vigorous administration of the Tudors, who governed England during the latter part of the fifteenth, and through the whole of the sixteenth century, no baron was powerful enough to dare to disturb the publick security.27
24The reader will find at the end of this chapter all the prices of wheat which have been collected by Fleetwood from 1202 to 1597, both inclusive, reduced to the money of the present times, and digested according to the order of time, into seven divisions of twelve years each. At the end of each division too, he will find the average price of the twelve years of which it consists. In that long period of time, Fleetwood has been able to collect the prices of no more than eighty years, so that four years are wanting to make out the last twelve years. I have added, therefore, from the accounts of Eton college, the prices of 1598, 1599, 1600, and 1601. It is the only addition which I have made. The reader will see that from the beginning of the thirteenth, till after the middle of the sixteenth century, the average price of each twelve years grows gradually lower and lower; and that towards the end of the sixteenth century it begins to rise again. The prices, indeed, which Fleetwood has been able to collect, seem to have been those chiefly which were remarkable for extraordinary dearness or cheapness; and I do not pretend that any very certain conclusion can be drawn from them. So far, however, as they prove any thing at all, they confirm the account which I have been endeavouring to give. Fleetwood himself, however, seems, with most other writers, to have believed, that during all this period the value of silver, in consequence of its increasing abundance, was continually diminishing. The prices of corn which he himself has collected, certainly do not agree with this opinion. They agree perfectly with that of Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, and with that which I have been endeavouring to explain. Bishop Fleetwood and Mr. Duprè de St. Maur are the two authors who seem to have collected, with the greatest diligence and fidelity, the prices of things in antient times. It is somewhat curious that, though their opinions are so very different, their facts, so far as they relate to the price of corn at least, should coincide so very exactly.28
25It is not, however, so much from the low price of corn, as from that of some other parts of the rude produce of land, that the most judicious writers have inferred the great value of silver in those very antient times. Corn, it has been said, being a sort of manufacture, was, in those rude ages, much dearer in proportion than the greater part of other commodities; it is meant, I suppose, than the greater part of unmanufactured commodities; such as cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. That in those times of poverty and barbarism these were proportionably much cheaper than corn, is undoubtedly true. But this cheapness was not the effect of the high value of silver, but of the low value of those commodities. It was not hbecauseh silver would in such times purchase or represent a greater quantity of labour, but ibecausei such commodities would purchase or represent a much smaller quantity than in times of more opulence and improvement. Silver must certainly be cheaper in Spanish America than in Europe; in the country where it is produced, than in the country to which it is brought, at the expence of a long carriage both by land and by sea, of a freight and an insurance. One–and–twenty pence halfpenny sterling, however, we are told by Ulloa, was, not many years ago, at Buenos Ayres, the price of an ox chosen from a herd of three or four hundred. Sixteen shillings sterling, we are told by Mr. Byron, was the price of a good horse in the capital of Chili.29 In a country naturally fertile, but of which the far greater part is altogether uncultivated, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. as they can be acquired with a very small quantity of labour, so they will purchase or command but a very small quantity.30 The low money price for which they may be sold, is no proof that the real value of silver is there very high, but that the real value of those commodities is very low.
26Labour, it must always be remembered, and not any particular commodity or sett of commodities, is the real measure of the value both of silver and of all other commodities.31
27 But in countries almost waste, or but thinly inhabited, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. as they are the spontaneous productions of nature, so she frequently produces them in much greater quantities than the consumption of the inhabitants requires. In such a state of things the supply commonly exceeds the demand. In different states of society, in different stages of improvement, therefore, such commodities will represent, or be equivalent to, very different quantities of labour.
28In every state of society, in every stage of improvement, corn is the production of human industry. But the average produce of every sort of industry is always suited, more or less exactly, to the average consumption; the average supply to the average demand. In every different stage of improvement, besides, the raising of equal quantities of corn in the same soil and climate, will, at an average, require nearly equal quantities of labour; or what comes to the same thing, the price of nearly equal quantities; the continual increase of the productive powers of labour in an jimprovingj state of cultivation, being more or less counter–balanced by the continually increasing price of cattle, the principal instruments of agriculture.32 Upon all these accounts, therefore, we may rest assured, that equal quantities of corn will, in every state of society, in every stage of improvement, more nearly represent, or be equivalent to, equal quantities of labour, than equal quantities of any other part of the rude produce of land. Corn, accordingly, it has already been observed,33 is, in all the different stages of wealth and improvement, a more accurate measure of value than any other commodity or sett of commodities. In all those different stages, therefore, we can judge better of the real value of silver, by comparing it with corn, than by comparing it with any other commodity, or sett of commodities.
29Corn, besides, or whatever else is the common and favourite vegetable food of the people, constitutes, in every civilised country, the principal part of the subsistence of the labourer. In consequence of the extension of agriculture, the land of every country produces a much greater quantity of vegetable than of animal food, and the labourer every where lives chiefly upon the wholesome food that is cheapest and most abundant. Butcher’s–meat, except in the most thriving countries, or where labour is most highly rewarded, makes but an insignificant part of his subsistence:34 poultry makes a still smaller part of it, and game no part of it. In France, and even in Scotland, where labour is somewhat better rewarded than in France, the labouring poor seldom eat butcher’s–meat, except upon holidays, and other extraordinary occasions. The money price of labour, therefore, depends much more upon the average money price of corn, the subsistence of the labourer, than upon that of butcher’s–meat, or of any other part of the rude produce of land. The real value of gold and silver, therefore, the real quantity of labour which they can purchase or command, depends much more upon the quantity of corn which they can purchase or command, than upon that of butcher’s–meat, or any other part of the rude produce of land.
30Such slight observations, however, upon the prices either of corn or of other commodities, would not probably have misled so many intelligent authors, had they not been kinfluenced, at the same time, byk the popular notion, that as the quantity of silver naturally increases in every country with the increase of wealth, so its value diminishes as its quantity increases. This notion, however, seems to be altogether groundless.
31The quantity of the precious metals may increase in any country from two different causes: either, first, from the increased abundance of the mines which supply it; or, secondly, from the increased wealth of the people, from the increased produce of their annual labour. The first of these causes is no doubt necessarily connected with the diminution of the value of the precious metals; but the second is not.
32When more abundant mines are discovered, a greater quantity of the precious metals is brought to market, and the quantity of the necessaries and conveniencies of life for which they must be exchanged being the same as before, equal quantities of the metals must be exchanged for smaller quantities of commodities. So far, therefore, as the increase of the quantity of the precious metals in any country arises from the increased abundance of the mines, it is necessarily connected with some diminution of their value.35
33When, on the contrary, the wealth of any country increases, when the annual produce of its labour becomes gradually greater and greater, a greater quantity of coin becomes necessary in order to circulate a greater quantity of commodities; and the people, as they can afford it, as they have more commodities to give for it, will naturally purchase a greater and a greater quantity of plate. The quantity of their coin will increase from necessity; the quantity of their plate from vanity and ostentation, or from the same reason that the quantity of fine statues, pictures, and of every other luxury and curiosity, is likely to increase among them. But as statuaries and painters are not likely to be worse rewarded in times of wealth and prosperity, than in times of poverty and depression, so gold and silver are not likely to be worse paid for.
34The price of gold and silver, when the accidental discovery of more abundant mines does not keep it down, as it naturally rises with the wealth of every country, so, whatever be the state of the mines, it is at all times naturally higher in a rich than in a poor country. Gold and silver, like all other commodities, naturally seek the market where the best price is given for them, and the best price is commonly given for every thing in the country which can best afford it. Labour, it must be remembered, is the ultimate price which is paid for every thing,36 and in countries where labour is equally well rewarded, the money price of labour will be in proportion to that of the subsistence of the labourer. But gold and silver will naturally exchange for a greater quantity of subsistence in a rich than in a poor country, in a country which abounds with subsistence, than in one which is but indifferently supplied with it. If the two countries are at a great distance, the difference may be very great; because though the metals naturally fly from the worse to the better market, yet it may be difficult to transport them in such quantities as to bring their price nearly to a level in both. If the countries are near, the difference will be smaller, and may sometimes be scarce perceptible; because in this case the transportation will be easy. China is a much richer country than any part of Europe,37 and the difference between the price of subsistence in China and in Europe is very great. Rice in China is much cheaper than wheat is any where in Europe. England is a much richer country than Scotland; but the difference between the money–price of corn in those two countries is much smaller, and is but just perceptible. In proportion to the quantity or measure, Scotch corn generally appears to be a good deal cheaper than English; but in proportion to its quality, it is certainly somewhat dearer. Scotland receives almost every year very large supplies from England, and every commodity must commonly be somewhat dearer in the country to which it is brought than in that from which it comes. English corn, therefore, must be dearer in Scotland than in England, and yet in proportion to its quality, or to the quantity and goodness of the flour or meal which can be made from it, it cannot commonly be sold higher there than the Scotch corn which comes to market in competition with it.38
35The difference between the money price of labour in China and in Europe, is still greater than that between the money price of subsistence; because the real recompence of labour is higher in Europe, than in China, the greater part of Europe being in an improving state, while China seems to be standing still. The money price of labour is lower in Scotland than in England because the real recompence of labour is much lower; Scotland, though advancing to greater wealth, ladvancesl much more slowly than England.39mThe frequency of emigration from Scotland, and the rarity of it from England, sufficiently prove that the demand for labour is very different in the two countries.m The proportion between the real recompence of labour in different countries, it must be remembered, is naturally regulated, not by their actual wealth or poverty, but by their advancing, stationary, or declining condition.40
36Gold and silver, as they are naturally of the greatest value among the richest, so they are naturally of nthen least value among the poorest nations. Among savages, the poorest of all nations, they are of scarce any value.
37In great towns corn is always dearer than in remote parts of the country. This, however, is the effect, not of the real cheapness of silver, but of the real dearness of corn. It does not cost less labour to bring silver to the great town than to the remote parts of the country; but it costs a great deal more to bring corn.
38 In some very rich and commercial countries, such as Holland and the territory of Genoa, corn is dear for the same reason that it is dear in great towns.41 They do not produce enough to maintain their inhabitants. They are rich in the industry and skill of their artificers and manufacturers; in every sort of machinery which can facilitate and abridge labour; in shipping, and in all the other instruments and means of carriage and commerce: but they are poor in corn, which, as it must be brought to them from distant countries, must, by an addition to its price, pay for the carriage from those countries. It does not cost less labour to bring silver to Amsterdam than to Dantzick; but it costs a great deal more to bring corn. The real cost of silver must be nearly the same in both places; but that of corn must be very different. Diminish the real opulence either of Holland or of the territory of Genoa, while the number of their inhabitants oremainso the same: diminish their power of supplying themselves from distant countries; and the price of corn, instead of sinking with that diminution in the quantity of their silver, which must necessarily accompany this declension either as its cause or as its effect, will rise to the price of a famine. When we are in want of necessaries we must part with all superfluities, of which the value, as it rises in times of opulence and prosperity, so it sinks in times of poverty and distress. It is otherwise with necessaries. Their real price, the quantity of labour which they can purchase or command, rises in times of poverty and distress, and sinks in times of opulence and prosperity, which are always times of great abundance; for they could not otherwise be times of opulence and prosperity. Corn is a necessary, silver is only a superfluity.
39Whatever, therefore, may have been the increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which, during the period between the middle of the fourteenth and that of the sixteenth century, arose from the increase of wealth and improvement, it could have no tendency to diminish their value either in Great Britain, or in any other part of Europe. If those who have collected the prices of things in ancient times, therefore, had, during this period, no reason to infer the diminution of the value of silver, from any observations which they had made upon the prices either of corn or of other commodities, they had still less reason to infer it from any supposed increase of wealth and improvement.
2From about 1570 to about 1640, during a period of about seventy years, the variation in the proportion between the value of silver and that of corn, held a quite opposite course. Silver sunk in its real value, or would exchange for a smaller quantity of labour than before; and corn rose in its nominal price, and instead of being commonly sold for about two ounces of silver the quarter, or about ten shillings of our present money, came to be sold for six and eight ounces of silver the quarter, or about thirty and forty shillings of our present money.
3The discovery of the abundant mines of America, seems to have been the sole cause of this diminution in the value of silver in proportion to that of corn.2 It is accounted for accordingly in the same manner by every body; and there never has been any dispute either about the fact, or about the cause of it. The greater part of Europe was, during this period, advancing in industry and improvement, and the demand for silver must consequently have been increasing. But the increase of the supply had, it seems, so far exceeded that of the demand, that the value of that metal sunk considerably. The discovery of the mines of America, it is to be observed, does not seem to have had any very sensible effect upon the prices of things in England till after 1570; though even the mines of Potosi had been discovered more than btwentyb years before.3
4From 1595 to 1620, both inclusive, the average price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windsor market, appears from the accounts of Eton College, to have been 2l. 1s. 6d. 9/13. From which sum, neglecting the fraction, and deducting a ninth,4 or 4s. 7d. ⅓, the price of the quarter of eight bushels comes out to have been 1l. 16s. 10d.⅔. And from this sum, neglecting likewise the fraction, and deducting a ninth, or 4s. 1d. 1/9, for the difference between the price of the best wheat and that of the middle wheat, the price of the middle wheat comes out to have been about 1l. 12s. 8d. 8/9, or about six ounces and one–third of an ounce of silver.
5From 1621 to 1636, both inclusive, the average price of the same measure of the best wheat at the same market, appears, from the same accounts, to have been 2l. 10s.; from which making the like deductions as in the foregoing case, the average price of the quarter of eight bushels of middle wheat comes out to have been 1l. 19s. 6d. or about seven ounces and two–thirds of an ounce of silver.
1Between 1630 and 1640, or about 1636, the effect of the discovery of the mines of America in reducing the value of silver, appears to have been compleated, and the value of that metal seems never to have sunk lower in proportion to that of corn than it was about that time. It seems to have risen somewhat in the course of the present century, and it had probably begun to do so even some time before the end of the last.
2From 1637 to 1700, both inclusive, being the sixty–four last years of the last century, the average price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windsor market, appears, from the same accounts, to have been 2l. 11s. 0d. ⅓; which is only 1s. 0d. ⅓ dearer than it had been during the sixteen years before. But in the course of these sixty–four years there happened two events which must have produced a much greater scarcity of corn than what the course of the seasons would otherwise have occasioned, and which, therefore, without supposing any further reduction in the value of silver, will much more than account for this very small enhancement of price.
3The first of these events was the civil war, which, by discouraging tillage and interrupting commerce, must have raised the price of corn much above what the course of the seasons would otherwise have occasioned. It must have had this effect more or less at all the different markets in the kingdom, but particularly at those in the neighbourhood of London, which require to be supplied from the greatest distance. In 1648, accordingly, the price of the best wheat at Windsor market, appears, from the same accounts, to have been 4l. 5s. and in 1649 to have been 4l. the quarter of nine bushels. The excess of those two years above 2l. 10s. (the average price of the sixteen years preceding 1637) is 3l. 5s.; which divided among the sixty–four last years of the last century, will alone very nearly account for that small enhancement of price which seems to have taken place in them. These, however, though the highest, are by no means the only high prices which seem to have been occasioned by the civil wars.
4The second event was the bounty upon the exportation of corn, granted in 1688.1 The bounty, it has been thought by many people, by encouraging tillage,2 may, in a long course of years, have occasioned a greater abundance, and consequently a greater cheapness of corn in the home–market, than what would otherwise have taken place there. aHow far the bounty could produce this effect at any time,3 I shall examine hereafter;4 I shall only observe at present, thata between 1688 and 1700, it had bnotb time to produce cany suchc effect. During this short period its only effect must have been, by encouraging the exportation of the surplus produce of every year, and thereby hindering the abundance of one year from compensating the scarcity of another, to raise the price in the home–market. The scarcity which prevailed in England from 1693 to 1699, both inclusive, though no doubt principally owing to the badness of the seasons, and, therefore, extending through a considerable part of Europe, must have been somewhat enhanced by the bounty. In 1699, accordingly, the further exportation of corn was prohibited for nine months.5
5There was a third event which occurred in the course of the same period, and which, though it could not occasion any scarcity of corn, nor, perhaps, any augmentation in the real quantity of silver which was usually paid for it, must necessarily have occasioned some augmentation in the nominal sum. This event was the great ddebasementd of the silver coin, by clipping and wearing. This evil had begun in the reign of Charles II. and had gone on continually increasing till 1695;6 at which time, as we may learn from Mr. Lowndes, the current silver coin was, at an average, near five–and–twenty per cent. below its standard value.7 But the nominal sum which constitutes the market–price of every commodity is necessarily regulated, not so much by the quantity of silver, which, according to the standard, ought to be contained in it, as by that which, it is found by experience, actually is contained in it. This nominal sum, therefore, is necessarily higher when the coin is much edebasede by clipping and wearing, than when near to its standard value.
6In the course of the present century, the silver coin has not at any time been more below its standard weight than it is at present. But though very much defaced, its value has been kept up by that of the gold coin for which it is exchanged. For though before the late re–coinage,8 the gold coin was a good deal defaced too, it was less so than the silver. In 1695, on the contrary, the value of the silver coin was not kept up by the gold coin; a guinea then commonly exchanging for thirty shillings of the worn and clipt silver.9 Before the late re–coinage of the gold, the price of silver bullion was seldom higher than five shillings and seven–pence an ounce, which is but five–pence above the mint price. But in 1695, the common price of silver bullion was six shillings and five–pence an ounce* , which is fifteen–pence above the mint price. Even before the late recoinage of the gold, therefore, the coin, gold and silver together, when compared with silver bullion, was not supposed to be more than eight per cent. below its standard value. In 1695, on the contrary, it had been supposed to be near five–and–twenty per cent. below that value. But in the beginning of the present century, that is, immediately after the great recoinage in King William’s time, the greater part of the current silver coin must have been still nearer to its standard weight than it is at present. In the course of the present century too there has been no great publick calamity, such as the civil war, which could either discourage tillage, or interrupt the interior commerce of the country. And though the bounty, which has taken place through the greater part of this century, must always raise the price of corn somewhat higher than it otherwise would be in the actual state of tillage; yet as, in the course of this century, the bounty has had full time to produce all the good effects commonly imputed to it, to encourage tillage, and thereby to increase the quantity of corn in the home market, it mayg, upon the principles of a system which I shall explain and examine hereafter,g10 be supposed to have done something to lower the price of that commodity the one way, as well as to raise it the other. It is by many people supposed to have done more. h In the sixty–four ifirsti years of the present century accordingly, the average price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windsor market, appears, by the accounts of Eton College, to have been 2l. 0s. 6d19/32,11 which is about ten shillings and sixpence, or more than five–and–twenty per cent.12 cheaper than it had been during the sixty–four last years of the last century; and about nine shillings and six–pence cheaper than it had been during the sixteen years preceding 1636, when the discovery of the abundant mines of America may be supposed to have produced its full effect; and about one shilling cheaper than it had been in the twenty–six years preceding 1620, before that discovery can well be supposed to have produced its full effect. According to this account, the average price of middle wheat, during these sixty–four first years of the present century, comes out to have been about thirty–two shillings the quarter of eight bushels.
7The value of silver, therefore, seems to have risen somewhat in proportion to that of corn during the course of the present century, and it had probably begun to do so even some time before the end of the last.
8In 1687, the price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windsor market was 1l. 5s. 2d. the lowest price at which it had ever been from 1595.
9In 1688, Mr. Gregory King, a man famous for his knowledge in matters of this kind, estimated the average price of wheat in years of moderate plenty to be to the grower 3s. 6d. the bushel, or eight–and–twenty shillings the quarter.13 The grower’s price I understand to be the same with what is sometimes called the contract price, or the price at which a farmer contracts for a certain number of years to deliver a certain quantity of corn to a dealer. As a contract of this kind saves the farmer the expence and trouble of marketing, the contract price is generally lower than what is supposed to be the average market price. Mr. King had judged eight–and–twenty shillings the quarter to be at that time the ordinary contract price in years of moderate plenty. Before the scarcity occasioned by the late extraordinary course of bad seasons, it wasj, I have been assured,j the ordinary contract price in all common years.
10In 1688 was granted the parliamentary bounty upon the exportation of corn.14 The country gentlemen, who then composed a still greater proportion of the legislature than they do at present,15 had felt that the money price of corn was falling. The bounty was an expedient to raise it artificially to the high price at which it had frequently been sold in the times of Charles I. and II. It was to take place, therefore, till wheat was so high as forty–eight shillings the quarter; that is twenty shillings, or 5/7ths dearer than Mr. King had in that very year estimated the grower’s price to be in times of moderate plenty. If his calculations deserve any part of the reputation which they have obtained very universally, eight–and–forty shillings the quarter, was a price which, without some such expedient as the bounty, could not at that time be expected, except in years of extraordinary scarcity. But the government of King William was not then fully settled. It was in no condition to refuse any thing to the country gentlemen, from whom it was at that very time soliciting the first establishment of the annual land–tax.16
11The value of silver, therefore, in proportion to that of corn, had probably risen somewhat before the end of the last century; and it seems to have continued to do so during the course of the greater part of the present;17 though the necessary operation of the bounty must have hindered that rise from being so sensible as it otherwise would have been in the actual state of tillage.
12In plentiful years the bounty, by occasioning an extraordinary exportation, necessarily raises the price of corn above what it otherwise would be in those years. To encourage tillage, by keeping up the price of corn even in the most plentiful years, was the avowed end of the institution.
13In years of great scarcity, indeed, the bounty has generally been suspended. It must, however, have had some effect kevenk upon the prices of many of those years. By the extraordinary exportation which it occasions in years of plenty, it must frequently hinder the plenty of one year from compensating the scarcity of another.
14Both in years of plenty and in years of scarcity, therefore, the bounty raises the price of corn above what it naturally would be in the actual state of tillage. If, during the sixty–four first years of the present century, therefore, the average price has been lower than during the sixty–four last years of the last century, it must, in the same state of tillage, have been much more so, had it not been for this operation of the bounty.18
15But without the bounty, it may be said, the state of tillage would not have been the same. What may have been the effects of this institution upon the agriculture of the country, I shall endeavour to explain hereafter, when I come to treat particularly of bounties. I shall only observe at present, that this rise in the value of silver, in proportion to that of corn, has not been peculiar to England. It has been observed to have taken place in France during the same period, and nearly in the same proportion too, by three very faithful, diligent, and laborious collectors of the prices of corn, Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, Mr. Messance, and the author of the Essay on the police of grain.19 But in France, till 1764, the exportation of grain was by law prohibited;20 and it is somewhat difficult to suppose, that nearly the same diminution of price which took place in one country, notwithstanding this prohibition, should in another be owing to the extraordinary encouragement given to exportation.
16It would be more proper, perhaps, to consider this variation in the average money price of corn as the effect rather of some gradual rise in the real value of silver in the European market, than of any fall in the real average value of corn. Corn, it has already been observed,21 is at distant periods of time a more accurate measure of value than either silver, or perhaps any other commodity. When, after the discovery of the abundant mines of America, corn rose to three and four times its former money price, this change was universally ascribed, not to any rise in the real value of corn, but to a fall in the real value of silver. If during the sixty–four first years of the present century, therefore, the average money price of corn has fallen somewhat below what it had been during the greater part of the last century, we should in the same manner impute this change, not to any fall in the real value of corn, but to some rise in the real value of silver in the European market.
17The high price of corn during these ten or twelve years past, indeed, has occasioned a suspicion that the real value of silver still continues to fall in the European market. This high price of corn, however, seems evidently to have been the effect of the extraordinary unfavourableness of the seasons, and ought therefore to be regarded, not as a permanent, but as a transitory and occasional event. The seasons for these ten or twelve years past have been unfavourable through the greater part of Europe;22 and the disorders of Poland have very much increased the scarcity in all those countries, which, in dear years, used to be supplied from that market.23 So long a course of bad seasons, though not a very common event, is by no means a singular one; and whoever has enquired much into the history of the prices of corn in former times, will be at no loss to recollect several other examples of the same kind. Ten years of extraordinary scarcity, besides, are not more wonderful than ten years of extraordinary plenty. The low price of corn from 1741 to 1750, both inclusive, may very well be set in opposition to its high price during these last eight or ten years. From 1741 to 1750, the average price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windsor market, it appears from the accounts of Eton College, was only 1l. 13s. 9d.⅘, which is nearly 6s. 3d. below the average price of the sixty–four first years of the present century. The average price of the quarter of eight bushels of middle wheat, comes out, according to this account, to have been, during these ten years, only 1l. 6s. 8d.24
18Between 1741 and 1750, however, the bounty must have hindered the price of corn from falling so low in the home market as it naturally would have done. During these ten years the quantity of all sorts of grain exported, it appears from the custom–house books, amounted to no less than eight millions twenty–nine thousand one hundred and fifty–six quarters one bushel. The bounty paid for this amounted to 1,514,962l. 17s. 4d.½.25 In 1749 accordingly, Mr. Pelham, at that time prime minister, observed to the House of Commons,26 that for the three years preceding, a very extraordinary sum had been paid as bounty for the exportation of corn. He had good reason to make this observation, and in the following year he might have had still better. In that single year the bounty paid amounted to no less than 324,176l. 10s. 6d.*27 It is unnecessary to observe how much this forced exportation must have raised the price of corn above what it otherwise would have been in the home market.
19At the end of the accounts annexed to this chapter the reader will find the particular account of those ten years separated from the rest. He will find there too the particular account of the preceding ten years, of which the average is likewise below, though not so much below, the general average of the sixty–four first years of the century. The year 1740, however, was a year of extraordinary scarcity. These twenty years preceding 1750, may very well be set in opposition to the twenty preceding 1770. As the former were a good deal below the general average of the century, notwithstanding the intervention of one or two dear years; so the latter have been a good deal above it, notwithstanding the intervention of one or two cheap ones, of 1759, for example.28 If the former have not been as much below the general average, as the latter have been above it, we ought probably to impute it to the bounty. The change has evidently been too sudden to be ascribed to any change in the value of silver, which is always slow and gradual. The suddenness of the effect can be accounted for only by a cause which can operate suddenly, the accidental variation of the seasons.
20The money price of labour in Great Britain has, indeed, risen during the course of the present century.29 This, however, seems to be the effect, not so much of any diminution in the value of silver in the European market, as of an increase in the demand for labour in Great Britain, arising from the great, and almost universal prosperity of the country. In France, a country not altogether so prosperous, the money price of labour has, since the middle of the last century, been observed to sink gradually with the average money price of corn. Both in the last century and in the present, the day–wages of common labour are there said to have been pretty uniformly about the twentieth part of the average price of the septier of wheat, a measure which contains a little more than four Winchester bushels. In Great Britain the real recompence of labour, it has already been shown,30 the real mquantitiesm of the necessaries and conveniencies of life which are given to the labourer, has increased considerably during the course of the present century. The rise in its money price seems to have been the effect, not of any diminution of the value of silver in the general market of Europe, but of a rise in the real price of labour in the particular market of Great Britain, owing to the peculiarly happy circumstances of the country.
21For some time after the first discovery of America, silver would continue to sell at its former, or not much below its former price. The profits of mining would for some time be very great, and much above their natural rate. Those who imported that metal into Europe, however, would soon find that the whole annual importation could not be disposed of at this high price. Silver would gradually exchange for a smaller and a smaller quantity of goods. Its price would sink gradually lower and lower till it fell to its natural price; or to what was just sufficient to pay, according to their natural rates, the wages of the labour, the profits of the stock, and the rent of the land, which must be paid in order to bring it from the mine to the market. In the greater part of the silver mines of Peru, the tax of the king of Spain, amounting to a ntenthn of the gross produce, eats up, it has already been observed,31 the whole rent of the land. This tax was originally a half; it soon afterwards fell to a third,o then to a fifth, pand at last to a tenth,p at which rate it still continues. In the greater part of the silver mines of Peru this, it seems, is all that remains after replacing the stock of the undertaker of the work, together with its ordinary profits; and it seems to be universally acknowledged that these profits, which were once very high, are now as low as they can well be, consistently with carrying on qtheq works.
22The tax of the king of Spain was reduced to a fifth rpartr of the registered silver in 1504* , one and–tfortyt years before u1545u the date of the discovery of the mines of Potosi.32 In the course of vninety yearsv or before 1636, these mines, the most fertile in all America, had time sufficient to produce their full effect, or to reduce the value of silver in the European market as low as it could well fall, while it continued to pay this tax to the king of Spain. wNinetyw years is time sufficient to reduce any commodity, of which there is no monopoly, to its natural price, or to the lowest price at which, while it pays a particular tax, it can continue to be sold for any considerable time together.33
23The price of silver in the European market might perhaps have fallen still lower, and it might have become necessary either to xreducex the tax upon it, ynot only to one tenth, as in 1736, but to one twentieth,y in the same manner as that upon gold, or to give up working the greater part of the American mines which are now wrought. The gradual increase of the demand for silver, or the gradual enlargement of the market for the produce of the silver mines of America, is probably the cause which has prevented this from happening, and which has not only kept up the value of silver in the European market, but has perhaps even raised it somewhat higher than it was about the middle of the last century.
24Since the first discovery of America, the market for the produce of its silver mines has been growing gradually more and more extensive.
25 First, The market of Europe has become gradually more and more extensive. Since the discovery of America, the greater part of Europe has been much improved. England, Holland, France, and Germany; even Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, have all advanced considerably both in agriculture and in manufactures. Italy seems not to have gone backwards. The fall of Italy preceded the conquest of Peru. Since that time it seems rather to have recovered a little. Spain and Portugal, indeed, are supposed to have gone backwards. Portugal, however, is but a very small part of Europe, and the declension of Spain is not, perhaps, so great as is commonly imagined. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Spain was a very poor country, even in comparison with France, which has been so much improved since that time. It was the well–known remark of the Emperor Charles V. who had travelled so frequently through both countries, that every thing abounded in France, but that every thing was wanting in Spain. The increasing produce of the agriculture and manufactures of Europe must necessarily have required a gradual increase in the quantity of silver coin to circulate it; and the increasing number of wealthy individuals must have required the like increase in the quantity of their plate and other ornaments of silver.
26Secondly, America is itself a new market for the produce of its own silver mines; and as its advances in agriculture, industry, and population, are much more rapid than those of the most thriving countries in Europe, its demand must increase much more rapidly. The English colonies are altogether a new market, which, partly for coin and partly for plate, requires a continually augmenting supply of silver through a great continent where there never was any demand before. The greater part too of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies are altogether new markets. New Granada, the Yucatan, Paraguay, and the Brazils were, before discovered by the Europeans, inhabited by savage nations, who had neither arts nor agriculture. A considerable degree of both has now been introduced into all of them. Even Mexico and Peru, though they cannot be considered as altogether new markets, are certainly much more extensive ones than they ever were before. After all the wonderful tales which have been published concerning the splendid state of those countries in antient times, whoever reads, with any degree of sober judgment, the history of their first discovery and conquest, will evidently discern that, in arts, agriculture, and commerce, their inhabitants were much more ignorant than the Tartars of the Ukraine are at present. Even the Peruvians, the more civilized nation of the two, though they made use of gold and silver as ornaments, had no coined money of any kind. Their whole commerce was carried on by barter, and there was accordingly scarce any division of labour among them.34 Those who cultivated the ground were obliged to build their own houses, to make their own houshold furniture, their own clothes, shoes, and instruments of agriculture. The few artificers among them are said to have been all maintained by the sovereign, the nobles, and the priests, and were probably their servants or slaves. All the ancient arts of Mexico and Peru have never furnished one single manufacture to Europe. The Spanish armies, though they scarce ever exceeded five hundred men, and frequently did not amount to half that number, found almost every where great difficulty in procuring subsistence. The famines which they are said to have occasioned almost wherever they went, in countries too which at the same time are represented as very populous and well–cultivated, sufficiently demonstrate that the story of this populousness and high cultivation is in a great measure fabulous. The Spanish colonies are under a government in many respects less favourable to agriculture, improvement and population, than that of the English colonies.35 They seem, however, to be advancing in all these much more rapidly than any country in Europe. In a fertile soil and happy climate, the great abundance and cheapness of land, a circumstance common to all new colonies,36 is, it seems, so great an advantage as to compensate many defects in civil government. Frezier, who visited Peru in 1713, represents Lima as containing between twenty–five and twenty–eight thousand inhabitants.37 Ulloa, who resided in the same country between 1740 and 1746, represents it as containing more than fifty thousand.38 The difference in their accounts of the populousness of several other principal towns in Chili and Peru is nearly the same;39 and as there seems to be no reason to doubt of the good information of either, it marks an increase which is scarce inferior to that of the English colonies. America, therefore, is a new market for the produce of its own silver mines, of which the demand must increase much more rapidly than that of the most thriving country in Europe.
27Thirdly, The East Indies is another market for the produce of the silver mines of America, and a market which, from the time of the first discovery of those mines, has been continually taking off a greater and a greater quantity of silver. Since that time, the direct trade between America and the East Indies, which is carried on by means of the Acapulco ships,40 has been continually augmenting, and the indirect intercourse by the way of Europe has been augmenting in a still greater proportion. During the sixteenth century, the Portuguese were the only European nation who carried on any regular trade to the East Indies. In the last years of that century the Dutch began to encroach upon this monopoly, and in a few years expelled them from their principal settlements in India. During the greater part of the last century those two nations divided the most considerable part of the East India trade between them; the trade of the Dutch continually augmenting in a still greater proportion than that of the Portuguese declined. The English and French carried on some trade with India in the last century, but it has been greatly augmented in the course of the present. The East India trade of the Swedes and Danes began in the course of the present century. Even the Muscovites now trade regularly with China by a sort of caravans which go over land through Siberia and Tartary to Pekin. The East India trade of all these nations, if we except that of the French, which the last war had well nigh annihilated, has been almost continually augmenting. The increasing consumption of East India goods in Europe is, it seems, so great, as to afford a gradual increase of employment to them all. Tea, for example, was a drug very little used in Europe before the middle of the last century. At present the value of the tea annually imported by the English East India Company, for the use of their own countrymen, amounts to more than a million and a half a year; and even this is not enough; a great deal more being constantly smuggled into the country from the ports of Holland, from Gottenburg in Sweden, and from the coast of France too, as long as the French East India Company was in prosperity. The consumption of the porcelain of China, of the spiceries of the Moluccas, of the piece goods of Bengal, and of innumerable other articles, has increased very nearly in a like proportion. The tonnage accordingly of all the European shipping employed in the East India trade, at any one time during the last century, was not, perhaps, much greater than that of the English East India Company before the late reduction of their shipping.41
28But in the East Indies, particularly in China and Indostan, the value of the precious metals, when the Europeans first began to trade to those countries, was much higher than in Europe; and it still continues to be so. In rice countries, which generally yield two, sometimes three crops in the year, each of them more plentiful than any common crop of corn, the abundance of food must be much greater than in any corn country of equal extent.42 Such countries are accordingly much more populous. In them too the rich, having a greater super–abundance of food to dispose of beyond what they themselves can consume, have the means of purchasing a much greater quantity of the labour of other people. The retinue of a grandee in China or Indostan accordingly is, by all accounts, much more numerous and splendid than that of the richest subjects in Europe. The same super–abundance of food, of which they have the disposal, enables them to give a greater quantity of it for all those singular and rare productions which nature furnishes but in very small quantities; such as the precious metals and the precious stones, the great objects of the competition of the rich.43 Though the mines, therefore, which supplied the Indian market had been as abundant as those which supplied the European, such commodities would naturally exchange for a greater quantity of food in India than in Europe. But the mines which supplied the Indian market with the precious metals seem to have been a good deal less abundant, and those which supplied it with the precious stones a good deal more so, than the mines which supplied the European. The precious metals, therefore, would naturally exchange zin Indiaz for somewhat a greater quantity of the precious stones, and for a much greater quantity of food a than in Europe.44 The money price of diamonds, the greatest of all superfluities, would be somewhat lower, and that of food, the first of all necessaries, a great deal lower in the one country than in the other. But the real price of labour, the real quantity of the necessaries of life which is given to the labourer, it has already been observed,45 is lower both in China and Indostan, the two great markets of India, than it is through the greater part of Europe. The wages of the labourer will there purchase a smaller quantity of food; and as the money price of food is much lower in India than in Europe, the money price of labour is there lower upon a double account; upon account both of the small quantity of food which it will purchase, and of the low price of that food. But in countries of equal art and industry, the money price of the greater part of manufactures will be in proportion to the money price of labour; and in manufacturing art and industry, China and Indostan, though inferior, seem not to be much inferior to any part of Europe. The money price of the greater part of manufactures, therefore, will naturally be much lower in those great empires than it is any–where in Europe. Through the greater part of Europe too the expence of land–carriage increases very much both the real and nominal price of most manufactures. It costs more labour, and therefore more money, to bring first the materials, and afterwards the compleat manufacture to market. In China and Indostan the extent and variety of inland navigations46 save the greater part of this labour, and consequently of this money, and thereby reduce still lower both the real and the nominal price of the greater part of their manufactures. Upon all these accounts, the precious metals are a commodity which it always has been, and still continues to be, extremely advantageous to carry from Europe to India. There is scarce any commodity which brings a better price there; or which, in proportion to the quantity of labour and commodities which it costs in Europe, will purchase or command a greater quantity of labour and commodities in India. It is more advantageous too to carry silver thither than gold; because in China, and the greater part of the other markets of India, the proportion between fine silver and fine gold is but as tenb, or at most as twelve,b to one; whereas in Europe it is as fourteen or fifteen to one.47 In China, and the greater part of the other markets of India, tenc, or at most twelve,c ounces of silver will purchase an ounce of gold: in Europe it requires from fourteen to fifteen ounces. In the cargoes, therefore, of the greater part of European ships which sail to India, silver has generally been one of the most valuable articles. It is the most valuable article in the Acapulco ships which sail to Manilla. The silver of the new continent seems in this manner to be done of the principal commoditiesd by which the commerce between the two extremities of the old one is carried on, and it is by means of ite, in a great measure,e that those distant parts of the world are connected with one another.
29In order to supply so very widely extended a market, the quantity of silver annually brought from the mines must not only be sufficient to support that continual increase both of coin and of plate which is required in all thriving countries; but to repair that continual waste and consumption of silver which takes place in all countries where that metal is used.
30The continual consumption of the precious metals in coin by wearing, and in plate both by wearing and cleaning, is very sensible; and in commodities of which the use is so very widely extended, would alone require a very great annual supply. The consumption of those metals in some particular manufactures, though it may not perhaps be greater upon the whole than this gradual consumption, is, however, much more sensible, as it is much more rapid. In the manufactures of Birmingham alone, the quantity of gold and siver annually employed in gilding and plating, and thereby disqualified from ever afterwards appearing in the shape of those metals, is said to amount to more than fifty thousand pounds sterling. We may from thence form some notion how great must be the annual consumption in all the different parts of the world, either in manufactures of the same kind with those of Birmingham, or in laces, embroideries, gold and silver stuffs, the gilding of books, furniture, &c. A considerable quantity too must be annually lost in transporting those metals from one place to another both by sea and by land. In the greater part of the governments of Asia, besides, the almost universal custom of concealing treasures in the bowels of the earth, of which the knowledge frequently dies with the person who makes the concealment, must occasion the loss of a still greater quantity.
31The quantity of gold and silver imported at both Cadiz and Lisbon (including not only what comes under register, but what may be supposed to be smuggled) amounts, according to the best accounts, to about six millions sterling a year.
32According to Mr. Meggens* the annual importation of the precious metals into Spain, at an average of six years; viz. from 1748 to 1753, both inclusive; and into Portugal, at an average of seven years; viz. from 1747 to 1753, both inclusive; amounted in silver to 1,101,107 pounds weight; and in gold to 49,940 pounds weight. The silver, at sixty–two shillings the pound Troy, amounts to 3,413,431l. 10s. sterling. The gold, at forty–four guineas and a half the pound Troy, amounts to 2,333,446l. 14s. sterling.48 Both together amount to 5,746,878l. 4s. sterling. The account of what was imported under register, he assures us is exact. He gives us the detail of the particular places from which the gold and silver were brought, and of the particular quantity of each metal, which, according to the register, each of them afforded. He makes an allowance too for the quantity of each metal which he supposes may have been smuggled. The great experience of this judicious merchant renders his opinion of considerable weight.
33According to the eloquent and, sometimes, well–informed Author of the Philosophical and Political History of the establishment of the Europeans in the two Indies, the annual importation of registered gold and silver into Spain, at an average of eleven years; viz. from 1754 to 1764, both inclusive; amounted to 13,984,185 g⅗g piastres of ten reals. On account of what may have been smuggled, however, the whole annual importation, he supposes, may have amounted to seventeen millions of piastres; which, at 4s. 6d. the piastre, is equal to 3,825,000 l. sterling. He gives the detail too of the particular places from which the gold and silver were brought, and of the particular quantities of each metal which, according to the register, each of them afforded.49 He informs us too, that if we were to judge of the quantity of gold annually imported from the Brazils into Lisbon by the amount of the tax paid to the king of Portugal, which it seems is one–fifth of the standard metal, we might value it at eighteen millions of cruzadoes, or forty–five millions of French livres, equal to about two millions sterling. On account of what may have been smuggled, however, we may safely, he says, add to this sum an eighth more, or 250,000 l. sterling, so that the whole will amount to 2,250,000 l. sterling. According to this account, therefore, the whole annual importation of the precious metals into both Spain and Portugal, amounts to about 6,075,000 l. sterling.50
34Several other very well authenticatedh, though manuscript,h accounts, I have been assured, agree, in making this whole annual importation amount at an average to about six millions sterling, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.
35The annual importation of the precious metals into Cadiz and Lisbon, indeed, is not equal to the whole annual produce of the mines of America. Some part is sent annually by the Acapulco ships to Manilla; some part is employed in the contraband trade which the Spanish colonies carry on with those of other European nations; and some part, no doubt, remains in the country. The mines of America, besides, are by no means the only gold and silver mines in the world. They are, however, by far the most abundant. The produce of all the other mines which are known, is insignificant, it is acknowledged, in comparison with theirs; and the far greater part of their produce, it is likewise acknowledged, is annually imported into Cadiz and Lisbon. But the consumption of Birmingham alone, at the rate of fifty thousand pounds a year, is equal to the hundred–and–twentieth part of this annual importation at the rate of six millions a year. The whole annual consumption of gold and silver, therefore, in all the different countries of the world where those metals are used, may perhaps be nearly equal to the whole annual produce. The remainder may be no more than sufficient to supply the increasing demand of all thriving countries. It may even have fallen so far short of this demand as somewhat to raise the price of those metals in the European market.
36The quantity of brass and iron annually brought from the mine to the market is out of all proportion greater than that of gold and silver. We do not, however, upon this account, imagine that those coarse metals are likely to multiply beyond the demand, or to become gradually cheaper and cheaper. Why should we imagine that the precious metals are likely to do so? The coarse metals, indeed, though harder, are put to much harder uses, and, as they are of less value, less care is employed in their preservation. The precious metals, however, are not necessarily immortal any more than they, but are liable too to be lost, wasted, and consumed in a great variety of ways.
37The price of all metals, though liable to slow and gradual variations, varies less from year to year than that of almost any other part of the rude produce of land;51 and the price of the precious metals is even less liable to sudden variations than that of the coarse ones. The durableness of metals is the foundation of this extraordinary steadiness of price. The corn which was brought to market last year, will be all or almost all consumed long before the end of this year. But some part of the iron which was brought from the mine two or three hundred years ago, may be still in use, and perhaps some part of the gold which was brought from it two or three thousand years ago. The different masses of corn which in different years must supply the consumption of the world, will always be nearly in proportion to the respective produce of those different years. But the proportion between the different masses of iron which may be in use in two different years, will be very little affected by any accidental difference in the produce of the iron mines of those two years; and the proportion between the masses of gold will be still less affected by any such difference in the produce of the gold mines. Though the produce of the greater part of metallick mines, therefore, varies, perhaps, still more from year to year than that of the greater part of cornfields, those variations have not the same effect upon the price of the one species of commodities, as upon that of the other.
Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of Gold and Silver
1Before the discovery of the mines of America, the value of fine gold to fine silver was regulated in the different mints of Europe, between the proportions of one to ten and one to twelve; that is, an ounce of fine gold was supposed to be worth from ten to twelve ounces of fine silver. About the middle of the last century it came to be regulated, between the proportions of one to fourteen and one to fifteen; that is, an ounce of fine gold came to be supposed worth between fourteen and fifteen ounces of fine silver. Gold rose in its nominal value, or in the quantity of silver which was given for it. Both metals sunk in their real value, or in the quantity of labour which they could purchase; but silver sunk more than gold. Though both the gold and silver mines of America exceeded in fertility all those which had ever been known before, the fertility of the silver mines had, it seems, been proportionably still greater than that of the gold ones.
2The great quantities of silver carried annually from Europe to India, have, in some of the English settlements, gradually reduced the value of that metal in proportion to gold. In the mint of Calcutta, an ounce of fine gold is supposed to be worth fifteen ounces of fine silver, in the same manner as in Europe. It is in the mint perhaps rated too high for the value which it bears in the market of Bengal. In China, the proportion of gold to silver still continues as one to tena, or one to twelvea . In Japan, it is said to be as one to eight.
3The proportion between the quantities of gold and silver annually imported into Europe, according to Mr. Meggens’s account, is as one to twenty–two nearly; that is, for one ounce of gold there are imported a little more than twenty–two ounces of silver. The great quantity of silver sent annually to the East Indies, reduces, he supposes, the quantities of those metals which remain in Europe to the proportion of one to fourteen or fifteen, the proportion of their values. The proportion between their values, he seems to think, must necessarily be the same as that between their quantities, and would therefore be as one to twenty–two, were it not for this greater exportation of silver.1
4But the ordinary proportion between the respective values of two commodities is not necessarily the same as that between the quantities of them which are commonly in the market. The price of an ox, reckoned at ten guineas, is about threescore times the price of a lamb, reckoned at 3s. 6d. It would be absurd, however, to infer from thence, that there are commonly in the market threescore lambs for one ox: and it would be just as absurd to infer, because an ounce of gold will commonly purchase from fourteen to fifteen ounces of silver, that there are commonly in the market only fourteen or fifteen ounces of silver for one ounce of gold.
5 The quantity of silver commonly in the market, it is probable, is much greater in proportion to that of gold, than the value of a certain quantity of gold is to that of an equal quantity of silver. The whole quantity of a cheap commodity brought to market, is commonly not only greater, but of greater value, than the whole quantity of a dear one. The whole quantity of bread annually brought to market, is not only greater, but of greater value than the whole quantity of butcher’s–meat; the whole quantity of butcher’s–meat, than the whole quantity of poultry; and the whole quantity of poultry, than the whole quantity of wild fowl. There are so many more purchasers for the cheap than for the dear commodity, that, not only a greater quantity of it, but a greater value can commonly be disposed of. The whole quantity, therefore, of the cheap commodity must commonly be greater in proportion to the whole quantity of the dear one, than the value of a certain quantity of the dear one, is to the value of an equal quantity of the cheap one. When we compare the precious metals with one another, silver is a cheap, and gold a dear commodity. We ought naturally to expect, therefore, that there should always be in the market, not only a greater quantity, but a greater value of silver than of gold. Let any man, who has a little of both, compare his own silver with his gold plate, and he will probably find, that, not only the quantity, but the value of the former greatly exceeds that of the latter. Many people, besides, have a good deal of silver who have no gold plate, which, even with those who have it, is generally confined to watch–cases, snuff–boxes, and such like trinkets, of which the whole amount is seldom of great value. In the British coin, indeed, the value of the gold preponderates greatly, but it is not so in that of all countries. In the coin of some countries the value of the two metals is nearly equal. In the Scotch coin, before the union with England, the gold preponderated very little, though it did somewhat* , as it appears by the accounts of the mint. In the coin of many countries the silver preponderates. In France, the largest sums are commonly paid in that metal, and it is there difficult to get more gold than whatc is necessary to carry about in your pocket. The superior value, however, of the silver plate above that of the gold, which takes place in all countries, will much more than compensate the preponderancy of the gold coin above the silver, which takes place only in some countries.
6Though, in one sense of the word, silver always has been, and probably always will be, much cheaper than gold; yet in another sense, gold may, perhaps, in the present state of the dSpanishd market, be said to be somewhat cheaper than silver. A commodity may be said to be dear or cheap, not only according to the absolute greatness or smallness of its usual price, but according as that price is more or less above the lowest for which it is possible to bring it to market for any considerable time together. This lowest price is that which barely replaces, with a moderate profit, the stock which must be employed in bringing the commodity thither. It is the price which affords nothing to the landlord, of which rent makes not any component part, but which resolves itself altogether into wages and profit. But, in the present state of the eSpanishe market, gold is certainly somewhat nearer to this lowest price than silver. The tax of the King of Spain upon gold is only one–twentieth part of the standard metal, or five per cent.; whereas his tax upon silver amounts to fone–tenthf part of it, or to gteng per cent. In these taxes too, it has already been observed,2 consists the whole rent of the greater part of the gold and silver mines of Spanish America; and that upon gold is still worse paid than that upon silver. The profits of the undertakers of gold mines too, as they more rarely make a fortune, must, in general, be still more moderate than those of the undertakers of silver mines.3 The price of Spanish gold, therefore, as it affords both less rent and less profit, must, in the hSpanishh market, be somewhat nearer to the lowest price for which it is possible to bring it thither, than the price of Spanish silver. iWhen all expences are computed, the whole quantity of the one metal, it would seem, cannot, in the Spanish market, be disposed of so advantageously as the whole quantity of the other. The tax, indeed, of the King of Portugal upon the gold of the Brazils, is the same with the ancient tax of the King of Spain upon the silver of Mexico and Peru ; or one–fifth part of the standard metal.4 It may, therefore, be uncertain whether to the general market of Europe the whole mass of American gold comes at a price nearer to the lowest for which it is possible to bring it thither, than the whole mass of American silver.i
7The price of diamonds and other precious stones may, perhaps, be still nearer to the lowest price at which it is possible to bring them to market, than even the price of gold.
8jThough it is not very probable, that any part of a tax, which is not only imposed upon one of the most proper subjects of taxation, a mere luxury and superfluity, but which affords so very important a revenue, as the tax upon silver, will ever be given up as long as it is possible to pay it; yet the same impossibility of paying it, which in 1736 made it necessary to reduce it from one–fifth to one–tenth, may in time make it necessary to reduce it still further; in the same manner as it made it necessary to reduce the tax upon gold to one–twentiethj5 That the silver mines of Spanish America, like all other mines, become gradually more expensive in the working, on account of the greater depths at which it is necessary to carry on the works, and of the greater expence of drawing out the water and of supplying them with fresh air at those depths, is acknowledged by every body who has enquired into the state of those mines.
9 These causes, which are equivalent to a growing scarcity of silver (for a commodity may be said to grow scarcer when it becomes more difficult and expensive to collect a certain quantity of it) must, in time, produce one or other of the three following events. The increase of the expence must either, first, be compensated altogether by a proportionable increase in the price of the metal; or, secondly, it must be compensated altogether by a proportionable diminution of the tax upon silver; or, thirdly, it must be compensated partly by the one, and partly by the other of those two expedients. This third event is very possible. As gold rose in its price in proportion to silver, notwithstanding a great diminution of the tax upon gold; so silver might rise in its price in proportion to labour and commodities, notwithstanding an equal diminution of the tax upon silver.
10kSuch successive reductions of the tax, however, though they may not prevent altogether, must certainly retard, more or less, the rise of the value of silver in the European market. In consequence of such reductions, many mines may be wrought which could not be wrought before, because they could not afford to pay the old tax; and the quantity of silver annually brought to market must always be somewhat greater, and, therefore, the value of any given quantity somewhat less, than it otherwise would have been. In consequence of the reduction in 1736, the value of silver in the European market, though it may not at this day be lower than before that reduction, is, probably, at least ten per cent. lower than it would have been, had the Court of Spain continued to exact the old tax.k
11lThat, notwithstanding this reduction, the value of silver has, during the course of the present century, begun to rise somewhat in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been alleged above, dispose me to believe, or more properly to suspect and conjecture; for the best opinion which I can form upon this subject scarce, perhaps, deserves the name of belief.l The rise, indeed, msupposing there has been any,m has hitherto been so very small, that after all that has been said, it may, perhaps, appear to many people uncertain, not only whether this event has actually taken place; but whether the contrary may not have taken place, or whether the value of silver may not still continue to fall in the European market.6
12n It must be observed, however, that whatever may be the supposed annual importation of gold and silver, there must be a certain period, at which the annual consumption of those metals will be equal to that annual importation. Their consumption must increase as their mass increases, or rather in a much greater proportion. As their mass increases, their value diminishes. They are more used, and less cared for, and their consumption consequently increases in a greater proportion than their mass. After a certain period, therefore, the annual consumption of those metals must, in this manner become equal to their annual importation, provided that importation is not continually increasing; which, in the present times, is not supposed to be the case.
13If, when the annual consumption has become equal to the annual importation, the annual importation should gradually diminish, the annual consumption, may, for some time, exceed the annual importation. The mass of those metals may gradually and insensibly diminish, and their value gradually and insensibly rise, till the annual importation becoming again stationary, the annual consumption will gradually and insensibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can maintain.n7
Grounds of the Suspicion that the Value of Silver still continues to decrease
1The increase of the wealth of Europe, and the popular notion that, as the quantity of the precious metals naturally increases with the increase of wealth, so their value diminishes as their quantity increases, may, aperhapsa dispose many people to believe that their value still continues to fall in the European market; and the still gradually increasing price of many parts of the rude produce of land mayb confirm them still further in this opinion.
2That that increase cinc the quantity of the precious metalsd , which arises ein any countrye from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have endeavoured to show already.1 Gold and silver naturally resort to a rich country, for the same reason that all sorts of luxuries and curiosities resort to it; not because they are cheaper there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because a better price is given for them. It is the superiority of price which attracts them, and as soon as that superiority ceases, they necessarily cease to go thither.
3If you except corn and such other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, that all other sorts of rude produce, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of the earth, &c. naturally grow dearer as the society advances in wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to show already.2 Though such commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of silver than before, it will not from thence follow that silver has become really cheaper, or will purchase less labour than before, but that such commodities have become really dearer, or will purchase more labour than before. It is not their nominal price only, but their real price which rises in the progress of improvement. The rise of their nominal price is the effect, not of any degradation of the value of silver, but of the rise in their real price.
Different Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon the real price of three different Sorts of rude Produce
1These different sorts of rude produce may be divided into three classes. The first comprehends those which it is scarce in the power of human industry to multiply at all. The second, those which it can multiply in proportion to the demand. The third, those in which the efficacy of industry is either limited or uncertain. In the progress of wealth and improvement, the real price of the first may rise to any degree of extravagance, and seems not to be limited by any certain boundary. That of the second, though it may rise greatly, has, however, a certain boundary beyond which it cannot well pass for any considerable time together. That of the third, though its natural tendency is to rise in the progress of improvement, yet in the same degree of improvement it may sometimes happen even to fall, sometimes to continue the same, and sometimes to rise more or less, according as different accidents render the efforts of human industry, in multiplying this sort of rude produce, more or less successful.
1The first sort of rude produce of which the price rises in the progress of improvement, is that which it is scarce in the power of human industry to multiply at all. It consists in those things which nature produces only in certain quantities, and which being of a very perishable nature, it is impossible to accumulate together the produce of many different seasons. Such are the greater part of rare and singular birds and fishes, many different sorts of game, almost all wild–fowl, all birds of passage in particular, as well as many other things. When wealth and the luxury which accompanies it increase, the demand for these is likely to increase with them, and no effort of human industry may be able to increase the supply much beyond what it was before this increase of the demand. The quantity of such commodities, therefore, remaining the same, or nearly the same, while the competition to purchase them is continually increasing, their price may rise to any degree of extravagance, and seems not to be limited by any certain boundary. If woodcocks should become so fashionable as to sell for twenty guineas a–piece, no effort of human industry could increase the number of those brought to market, much beyond what it is at present. The high price paid by the Romans, in the time of their greatest grandeur, for rare birds and fishes, may in this manner easily be accounted for. These prices were not the effects of the low value of silver in those times, but of the high value of such rarities and curiosities as human industry could not multiply at pleasure. The real value of silver was higher at Rome, for some time before and after the fall of the republick, than it is through the greater part of Europe at present. Three sestertii, equal to about sixpence sterling, was the price which the republick paid for the modius or peck of the tithe wheat of Sicily.1 This price, however, was probably below the average market price, the obligation to deliver their wheat at this rate being considered as a tax upon the Sicilian farmers. When the Romans, therefore, had occasion to order more corn than the tithe of wheat amounted to, they were bound by capitulation to pay for the surplus at the rate of four sestertii, or eight–pence sterling the peck;2 and this had probably been reckoned the moderate and reasonable, that is, the ordinary or average contract price of those times; it is equal to about one–and–twenty shillings the quarter. Eight–and–twenty shillings the quarter was, before the late years of scarcity,3 the ordinary contract price of English wheat, which in quality is inferior to the Sicilian, and generally sells for a lower price in the European market. The value of silver, therefore, in those antient times, must have been to its value in the present, as three to four inversely, that is, three ounces of silver would then have purchased the same quantity of labour and commodities which four ounces will do at present.4 When we read in Pliny, therefore, that Seius*5 bought a white nightingale, as a present for the empress Agrippina, at the price of six thousand sestertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our present money; and that Asinius Celer†6 purchased a surmullet at the price of eight thousand sestertii equal to about sixty–six pounds thirteen shillings and four–pence of our present money; the extravagance of those prices, how much soever it may surprise us, is apt, notwithstanding, to appear to us about one–third less than it really was. Their real price, the quantity of labour and subsistence which was given away for them, was about one–third more than their nominal price is apt to express to us in the present times. Seius gave for the nightingale the command of a quantity of labour and subsistence, equal to what 66l. 13s. 4d. would purchase in the present times; and Asinius Celer gave for the surmullet the command of a quantity equal to what 88l. 17s. 9⅓d. would purchase. What occasioned the extravagance of those high prices was, not so much the abundance of silver, as the abundance of labour and subsistence, of which those Romans had the disposal, beyond what was necessary for their own use. The quantity of silver, of which they had the disposal, was a good deal less than what the command of the same quantity of labour and subsistence would have procured to them in the present times.
1The second sort of rude produce of which the price rises in the progress of improvement, is that which human industry can multiply in proportion to the demand. It consists in those useful plants and animals, which, in uncultivated countries, nature produces with such profuse abundance,1 that they are of little or no value, and which, as cultivation advances, are therefore forced to give place to some more profitable produce.2 During a long period in the progress of improvement, the quantity of these is continually diminishing, while at the same time the demand for them is continually increasing. Their real value, therefore, the real quantity of labour which they will purchase or command, gradually rises, till at last it gets so high as to render them as profitable a produce as any thing else which human industry can raise upon the most fertile and best cultivated land. When it has got so high it cannot well go higher. If it did, more land and more industry would soon be employed to increase their quantity.
2When the price of cattle, for example, rises so high that it is as profitable to cultivate land in order to raise food for them, as in order to raise food for man, it cannot well go higher. If it did, more corn land would soon be turned into pasture. The extension of tillage, by diminishing the quantity of wild pasture, diminishes the quantity of butcher’s–meat which the country naturally produces without labour or cultivation, and by increasing the number of those who have either corn, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of corn, to give in exchange for it, increases the demand. The price of butcher’s meat, therefore, and consequently of cattle, must gradually rise till it gets so high, that it becomes as profitable to employ the most fertile and best cultivated lands in raising food for them as in raising corn.3 But it must always be late in the progress of improvement before tillage can be so far extended as to raise the price of cattle to this height; and till it has got to this height, if the country is advancing at all, their price must be continually rising. There are, perhaps, some parts of Europe in which the price of cattle has not yet got to this height. It had not got to this height in any part of Scotland before the union.4 Had the Scotch cattle been always confined to the market of Scotland, in a country in which the quantity of land, which can be applied to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle, is so great in proportion to what can be applied to other purposes, it is scarce possible, perhaps, that their price could ever have risen so high as to render it profitable to cultivate land for the sake of feeding them. In England, the price of cattle, it has already been observed,5 seems, in the neighbourhood of London, to have got to this height about the beginning of the last century; but it was much later probably before it got to it through the greater part of the remoter counties; in some of which, perhaps, it may scarce yet have got to it. Of all the different substances, however, which compose this second sort of rude produce, cattle is, perhaps, that of which the price, in the progress of improvement, afirst risesa to this height.
3Till the price of cattle, indeed, has got to this height, it seems scarce possible that the greater part, even of those lands which are capable of the highest cultivation, can be completely cultivated. In all farms too distant from any town to carry manure from it, that is, in the far greater part of those of every extensive country, the quantity of well–cultivated land must be in proportion to the quantity of manure which the farm itself produces; and this again must be in proportion to the stock of cattle which are maintained upon it. The land is manured either by pasturing the cattle upon it, or by feeding them in the stable, and from thence carrying out their dung to it. But unless the price of the cattle be sufficient to pay both the rent and profit of cultivated land, the farmer cannot afford to pasture them upon it; and he can still less afford to feed them in the stable. It is with the produce of improved and cultivated land only, that cattle can be fed in the stable; because to collect the scanty and scattered produce of waste and unimproved lands would require too much labour and be too expensive. If the price of the cattle, therefore, is not sufficient to pay for the produce of improved and cultivated land, when they are allowed to pasture it, that price will be still less sufficient to pay for that produce when it must be collected with a good deal of additional labour, and brought into the stable to them. In these circumstances, therefore, no more cattle can, with profit, be fed in the stable than what are necessary for tillage. But these can never afford manure enough for keeping constantly in good condition, all the lands which they are capable of cultivating. What they afford being insufficient for the whole farm, will naturally be reserved for the lands to which it can be most advantageously or conveniently applied; the most fertile, or those, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of the farm–yard. These, therefore, will be kept constantly in good condition and fit for tillage. The rest will, the greater part of them, be allowed to lie waste, producing scarce any thing but some miserable pasture, just sufficient to keep alive a few straggling, half–starved cattle; the farm, though much understocked in proportion to what would be necessary for its complete cultivation, being very frequently overstocked in proportion to its actual produce. A portion of this waste land, however, after having been pastured in this wretched manner for six or seven years together, may be ploughed up, when it will yield, perhaps, a poor crop or two of bad oats, or of some other coarse grain, and then, being entirely exhausted, it must be rested and pastured again as before and another portion ploughed up to be in the same manner exhausted and rested again in its turn. Such accordingly was the general system of management all over the low country of Scotland before the union. The lands which were kept constantly well manured and in good condition, seldom exceeded a third or a fourth part of the whole farm, and sometimes did not amount to a fifth or a sixth part of it. The rest were never manured, but a certain portion of them was in its turn, notwithstanding, regularly cultivated and exhausted. Under this system of management, it is evident, even that part of the lands of Scotland which is capable of good cultivation, could produce but little in comparison of what it may be capable of producing. But how disadvantageous soever this system may appear, yet before the union the low price of cattle seems to have rendered it almost unavoidable. If, notwithstanding a great rise in their price, it still continues to prevail through a considerable part of the country, it is owing, in many places, no doubt, to ignorance and attachment to old customs, but in most places to the unavoidable obstructions which the natural course of things opposes to the immediate or speedy establishment of a better system: first, to the poverty of the tenants, to their not having yet had time to acquire a stock of cattle sufficient to cultivate their lands more compleatly, the same rise of price which would render it advantageous for them to maintain a greater stock, rendering it more difficult for them to acquire it; and, secondly, to their not having yet had time to put their lands in condition to maintain this greater stock properly, supposing they were capable of acquiring it. The increase of stock and the improvement of land are two events which must go hand in hand, and of which the one can no where much out–run the other. Without some increase of stock, there can be scarce any improvement of land, but there can be no considerable increase of stock but in consequence of a considerable improvement of land; because otherwise the land could not maintain it. These natural obstructions to the establishment of a better system, cannot be removed but by a long course of frugality and industry; and half a century or a century more, perhaps, must pass away before the old system, which is wearing out gradually, can be compleatly abolished through all the different parts of the country. Of all btheb commercial advantages, however, which Scotland has derived from the union with England, this rise in the price of cattle is, perhaps, the greatest.6 It has not only raised the value of all highland estates, but it has, perhaps, been the principal cause of the improvement of the low country.
4In all new colonies the great quantity of waste land, which can for many years be applied to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle, soon renders them extremely abundant, and in every thing great cheapness is the necessary consequence of great abundance. Though all the cattle of the European colonies in America were originally carried from Europe, they soon multiplied so much there, and became of so little value, that even horses were allowed to run wild in the woods without any owner thinking it worth while to claim them.7 It must be a long time after the first establishment of such colonies, before it can become profitable to feed cattle upon the produce of cultivated land. The same causes, therefore, the want of manure, and the disproportion between the stock employed in cultivation, and the land which it is destined to cultivate, are likely to introduce there a system of husbandry not unlike that which still continues to take place in so many parts of Scotland. Mr. Kalm, the Swedish traveller, when he gives an account of the husbandry of some of the English colonies in North America, as he found it in 1749, observes, accordingly, that he can with difficulty discover there the character of the English nation, so well skilled in all the different branches of agriculture.8 They make scarce any manure for their corn fields, he says; but when one piece of ground has been exhausted by continual cropping, they clear and cultivate another piece of fresh land; and when that is exhausted, proceed to a third. Their cattle are allowed to wander through the woods and other uncultivated grounds, where they are half–starved; having long ago extirpated almost all the annual grasses by cropping them too early in the spring, before they had time to form their flowers, or to shed their seeds* . The annual grasses were, it seems, the best natural grasses in that part of North America; and when the Europeans first settled there, they used to grow very thick, and to rise three or four feet high. A piece of ground which, when he wrote, could not maintain one cow, would in former times, he was assured, have maintained four, each of which would have given four times the quantity of milk, which that one was capable of giving. The poorness of the pasture had, in his opinion, occasioned the degradation of their cattle, which degenerated sensibly from one generation to another. They were probably not unlike that stunted breed which was common all over Scotland thirty or forty years ago, and which is now so much mended through the greater part of the low country, not so much by a change of the breed, though that expedient has been employed in some places, as by a more plentiful method of feeding them.
5Though it is late, therefore, in the progress of improvement before cattle can bring such a price as to render it profitable to cultivate land for the sake of feeding them; yet of all the different parts which compose this second sort of rude produce, they are perhaps the first which bring this price; because till they bring it, it seems impossible that improvement can be brought near even to that degree of perfection to which it has arrived in many parts of Europe.
6As cattle are among the first, so perhaps venison is among the last parts of this sort of rude produce which bring this price. The price of venison in Great Britain; how extravagant soever it may appear, is not near sufficient to compensate the expence of a deer park, as is well known to all those who have had any experience in the feeding of deer. If it was otherwise, the feeding of deer would soon become an article of common farming; in the same manner as the feeding of those small birds called Turdi was among the antient Romans. Varro and Columella assure us that it was a most profitable article.9 The fattening of Ortolans, birds of passage which arrive lean in the country, is said to be so in some parts of France. If venison continues in fashion, and the wealth and luxury of Great Britain increase as they have done for some time past, its price may very probably rise still higher than it is at present.
7Between that period in the progress of improvement which brings to its height the price of so necessary an article as cattle, and that which brings to it the price of such a superfluity as venison, there is a very long interval, in the course of which many other sorts of rude produce gradually arrive at their highest price, some sooner and some later, according to different circumstances.
8Thus in every farm the offals of the barn and stables will maintain a certain number of poultry. These, as they are fed with what would otherwise be lost, are a mere save–all; and as they cost the farmer scarce any thing, so he can afford to sell them for very little. Almost all that he gets is pure gain, and their price can scarce be so low as to discourage him from feeding this number. But in countries ill cultivated, and, therefore, but thinly inhabited, the poultry, which are thus raised without expence, are often fully sufficient to supply the whole demand. In this state of things, therefore, they are often as cheap as butcher’s–meat, or any other sort of animal food. But the whole quantity of poultry, which the farm in this manner produces without expence, must always be much smaller than the whole quantity of butcher’s–meat which is reared upon it; and in times of wealth and luxury what is rare, with only nearly equal merit, is always preferred to what is common.10 As wealth and luxury increase, therefore, in consequence of improvement and cultivation, the price of poultry gradually rises above that of butcher’s–meat, till at last it gets so high that it becomes profitable to cultivate land for the sake of feeding them. When it has got to this height, it cannot well go higher. If it did, more land would soon be turned to this purpose. In several provinces of France, the feeding of poultry is considered as a very important article in rural œconomy, and sufficiently profitable to encourage the farmer to raise a considerable quantity of Indian corn and buck–wheat for this purpose. A middling farmer will there sometimes have four hundred fowls in his yard. The feeding of poultry seems scarce yet to be generally considered as a matter of so much importance in England. They are certainly, however, dearer in England than in France, as England receives considerable supplies from France. In the progress of improvement, the period at which every particular sort of animal food is dearest, must naturally be that which immediately precedes the general practice of cultivating land for the sake of raising it. For some time before this practice becomes general, the scarcity must necessarily raise the price. After it has become general, new methods of feeding are commonly fallen upon, which enable the farmer to raise upon the same quantity of ground a much greater quantity of that particular sort of animal food. The plenty not only obliges him to sell cheaper, but in consequence of these improvements he can afford to sell cheaper; for if he could not afford it, the plenty would not be of long continuance. It has been probably in this manner that the introduction of clover, turnips, carrots, cabbages, &c. has contributed to sink the common price of butcher’s–meat in the London market somewhat below what it was about the beginning of the last century.11
9 The hog, that finds his food among ordure, and greedily devours many things rejected by every other useful animal, is, like poultry, originally kept as a save–all. As long as the number of such animals, which can thus be reared at little or no expence, is fully sufficient to supply the demand, this sort of butcher’s–meat comes to market at a much lower price than any other. But when the demand rises beyond what this quantity can supply, when it becomes necessary to raise food on purpose for feeding and fattening hogs, in the same manner as for feeding and fattening other cattle, the price necessarily rises, and becomes proportionably either higher or lower than that of other butcher’s–meat, according as the nature of the country, and the state of its agriculture, happen to render the feeding of hogs more or less expensive than that of other cattle. In France, according to Mr. Buffon,12 the price of pork is nearly equal to that of beef. In most parts of Great Britain it is at present somewhat higher.
10The great rise in the price both of hogs and poultry has in Great Britain been frequently imputed to the diminution of the number of cottagers and other small occupiers of land; an event which has in every part of Europe been the immediate fore–runner of improvement and better cultivation, but which at the same time may have contributed to raise the price of those articles, both somewhat sooner and somewhat faster than it would otherwise have risen.13 As the poorest family can often maintain a cat or a dog, without any expence; so the poorest occupiers of land can commonly maintain a few poultry, or a sow and a few pigs, at very little. The little offals of their own table, their whey, skimmed milk, and butter–milk, supply those animals with a part of their food, and they find the rest in the neighbouring fields without doing any sensible damage to any body. By diminishing the number of those small occupiers, therefore, the quantity of this sort of provisions which is thus produced at little or no expence, must certainly have been a good deal diminished, and their price must consequently have been raised both sooner and faster than it would otherwise have risen. Sooner or later, however, in the progress of improvement, it must at any rate have risen to the utmost height to which it is capable of rising; or to the price which pays the labour and expence of cultivating the land which furnishes them with food as well as these are paid upon the greater part of dotherd cultivated land.
11The business of the dairy, like the feeding of hogs and poultry, is originally carried on as a save–all. The cattle necessarily kept upon the farm, produce more milk than either the rearing of their own young, or the consumption of the farmer’s family requires; and they produce most at one particular season. But of all the productions of land, milk is perhaps the most perishable. In the warm season, when it is most abundant, it will scarce keep four–and–twenty hours. The farmer, by making it into fresh butter, stores a small part of it for a week: by making it into salt butter, for a year: and by making it into cheese, he stores a much greater part of it for several years. Part of all these is reserved for the use of his own family. The rest goes to market, in order to find the best price which is to be had, and which can scarce be so low as to discourage him from sending thither whatever is over and above the use of his own family. If it is very low, indeed, he will be likely to manage his dairy in a very slovenly and dirty manner, and will scarce perhaps think it worth while to have a particular room or building on purpose for it, but will suffer the business to be carried on amidst the smoke, filth, and nastiness of his own kitchen; as was the case of almost all the farmers dairies in Scotland thirty or forty years ago, and as is the case of many of them still. The same causes which gradually raise the price of butcher’s–meat, the increase of the demand, and, in consequence of the improvement of the country, the diminution of the quantity which can be fed at little or no expence, raise, in the same manner, that of the produce of the dairy, of which the price naturally connects with that of butcher’s–meat, or with the expence of feeding cattle. The increase of price pays for more labour, care, and cleanliness. The dairy becomes more worthy of the farmer’s attention, and the quality of its produce gradually improves. The price at last gets so high that it becomes worth while to employ some of the most fertile and best cultivated lands in feeding cattle merely for the purpose of the dairy; and when it has got to this height, it cannot well go higher. If it did, more land would soon be turned to this purpose. It seems to have got to this height through the greater part of England, where much good land is commonly employed in this manner. If you except the neighbourhood of a few considerable towns, it seems not yet to have got to this height any where in Scotland, where common farmers seldom employ much good land in raising food for cattle merely for the purpose of the dairy. The price of the produce, though it has risen very considerably within these few years, is probably still too low to admit of it. The inferiority of the quality, indeed, compared with that of the produce of English dairies, is fully equal to that of the price. But this inferiority of quality is, perhaps, rather the effect of this lowness of price than the cause of it. Though the quality was much better, the greater part of what is brought to market could not, I apprehend, in the present circumstances of the country, be disposed of at a much better price; and the present price, it is probable, would not pay the expence of the land and labour necessary for producing a much better quality. Through the greater part of England, notwithstanding the superiority of price, the dairy is not reckoned a more profitable employment of land than the raising of corn, or the fattening of cattle, the two great objects of agriculture. Through the greater part of Scotland, therefore, it cannot yet be eeven soe profitable.
12 The lands of no country, it is evident, can ever be compleatly cultivated and improved, till once the price of every produce, which human industry is obliged to raise upon them, has got so high as to pay for the expence of compleat improvement and cultivation. In order to do this, the price of each particular produce must be sufficient, first, to pay the rent of good corn land, as it is that which regulates the rent of the greater part of other cultivated land;14 and, secondly, to pay the labour and expence of the farmer as well as they are commonly paid upon good corn–land; or, in other words, to replace with the ordinary profits the stock which he employs about it. This rise in the price of each particular produce, must evidently be previous to the improvement and cultivation of the land which is destined for raising it. Gain is the end of all improvement, and nothing could deserve that name of which loss was to be the necessary consequence. But loss must be the necessary consequence of improving land for the sake of a produce of which the price could never bring back the expence. If the compleat improvement and cultivation of the country be, as it most certainly is, the greatest of all publick advantages, this rise in the price of all those different sorts of rude produce, instead of being considered as a publick calamity, ought to be regarded as the necessary forerunner and attendant of the greatest of all publick advantages.
13This rise too in the nominal or money–price of all those different sorts of rude produce has been the effect, not of any degradation in the value of silver, but of a rise in their real price. They have become worth, not only a greater quantity of silver, but a greater quantity of labour and subsistence than before. As it costs a greater quantity of labour and subsistence to bring them to market, so when they are brought thither, they represent or are equivalent to a greater quantity.
1The third and last sort of rude produce, of which the price naturally rises in the progress of improvement, is that in which the efficacy of human industry, in augmenting the quantity, is either limited or uncertain. Though the real price of this sort of rude produce, therefore, naturally tends to rise in the progress of improvement, yet, according as different accidents happen to render the efforts of human industry more or less successful in augmenting the quantity, it may happen sometimes even to fall, sometimes to continue the same in very different periods of improvement, and sometimes to rise more or less in the same period.
2There are some sorts of rude produce which nature has rendered a kind of appendages to other sorts; so that the quantity of the one which any country can afford, is necessarily limited by that of the other. The quantity of wool or of raw hides, for example, which any country can afford, is necessarily limited by the number of great and small cattle that are kept in it. The state of its improvement, and the nature of its agriculture, again necessarily determine this number.
3The same causes, which, in the progress of improvement, gradually raise the price of butcher’s–meat, should have the same effect, it may be thought, upon the prices of wool and raw hides, and raise them too nearly in the same proportion. It probably would be so, if in the rude beginnings of improvement the market for the latter commodities was confined within as narrow bounds as that for the former. But the extent of their respective markets is commonly extremely different.
4The market for butcher’s–meat is almost every–where confined to the country which produces it. Ireland, and some part of British America indeed, carry on a considerable trade in salt provisions; but they are, I believe, the only countries in the commercial world which do so, or which export to other countries any considerable part of their butcher’s–meat.
5The market for wool and raw hides, on the contrary, is in the rude beginnings of improvement very seldom confined to the country which produces them. They can easily be transported to distant countries, wool without any preparation, and raw hides with very little: and as they are the materials of many manufactures, the industry of other countries may occasion a demand for them, though that of the country which produces them might not occasion any.
6In countries ill cultivated, and therefore but thinly inhabited, the price of the wool and the hide bears always a much greater proportion to that of the whole beast, than in countries where, improvement and population being further advanced, there is more demand for butcher’s–meat. Mr. Hume observes, that in the Saxon times, the fleece was estimated at two–fifths of the value of the whole sheep, and that this was much above the proportion of its present estimation.1 In some provinces of Spain, I have been assured, the sheep is frequently killed merely for the sake of the fleece and the tallow. The carcase is often left to rot upon the ground, or to be devoured by beasts and birds of prey. If this sometimes happens even in Spain, it happens almost constantly in Chili, at Buenos Ayres, and in many other parts of Spanish America, where the horned cattle are almost constantly killed merely for the sake of the hide and the tallow.2 This too used to happen almost constantly in Hispaniola, while it was infested by the Buccaneers, and before the settlement, improvement, and populousness of the French plantations (which now extend round the coast of almost the whole western half of the island) had given some value to the cattle of the Spaniards, who still continue to possess, not only the eastern part of the coast, but the whole inland and mountainous part of the country.
7 Though in the progress of improvement and population, the price of the whole beast necessarily rises, yet the price of the carcase is likely to be much more affected by this rise than that of the wool and the hide. The market for the carcase, being in the rude state of society confined always to the country which produces it, must necessarily be extended in proportion to the improvement and population of that country. But the market for the wool and the hides even of a barbarous country often extending to the whole commercial world, it can very seldom be enlarged in the same proportion. The state of the whole commercial world can seldom be much affected by the improvement of any particular country; and the market for such commodities may remain the same or very nearly the same, after such improvements, as before. It should, however, in the natural course of things rather upon the whole be somewhat extended in consequence of them. If the manufactures, especially, of which those commodities are the materials, should ever come to flourish in the country, the market, though it might not be much enlarged, would at least be brought much nearer to the place of growth than before; and the price of those materials might at least be increased by what had usually been the expence of transporting them to distant countries. Though it might not rise therefore in the same proportion as that of butcher’s–meat, it ought naturally to rise somewhat, and it ought certainly not to fall.
8 In England, however, notwithstanding the flourishing state of its woollen manufacture, the price of English wool has fallen very considerably since the time of Edward III. There are many authentick records which demonstrate that during the reign of that prince (towards the middle of the fourteenth century, or about 1339) what was reckoned the moderate and reasonable price of the tod or twenty–eight pounds of English wool was not less than ten shillings of the money of those times* ,3 containing, at the rate of twenty–pence the ounce, six ounces of silver Tower–weight, equal to about thirty shillings of our present money. In the present times, one–and–twenty shillings the tod may be reckoned a good price for very good English wool. The money–price of wool, therefore, in the time of Edward III, was to its money–price in the present times as ten to seven. The superiority of its real price was still greater. At the rate of six shillings and eight–pence the quarter, ten shillings was in those antient times the price of twelve bushels of wheat. At the rate of twenty–eight shillings the quarter, one–and–twenty shillings is in the present times the price of six bushels only. The proportion between the real prices of antient and modern times, therefore, is as twelve to six, or as two to one. In those antient times a tod of wool would have purchased twice the quantity of subsistence which it will purchase at present; and consequently twice the quantity of labour, if the real recompence of labour had been the same in both periods.
9This degradation both in the real and nominal value of wool, could never have happened in consequence of the natural course of things. It has accordingly been the effect of violence and artifice: First, of the absolute prohibition of exporting wool from England;4 Secondly, of the permission of importing it from bSpainb duty free;5 Thirdly, of the prohibition of exporting it from Ireland to any other country but England.6 In consequence of these regulations, the market for English wool, instead of being somewhat extended in consequence of the improvement of England, has been confined to the home market, where the wool of cseveralc other countries is allowed to come into competition with it, and where that of Ireland is forced into competition with it. As the woollen manufactures too of Ireland are fully as much discouraged as is consistent with justice and fair dealing, the Irish can work up but a small part of their own wool at home, and are, therefore, obliged to send a greater proportion of it to Great Britain, the only market they are allowed.7
10I have not been able to find any such authentick records concerning the price of raw hides in antient times. Wool was commonly paid as a subsidy to the king, and its valuation in that subsidy ascertains, at least in some degree, what was its ordinary price. But this seems not to have been the case with raw hides. Fleetwood, however, from an account in 1425, between the prior of Burcester Oxford and one of his canons, gives us their price, at least as it was stated, upon that particular occasion; viz. five ox hides at twelve shillings; five cow hides at seven shillings and three pence; thirty–six dsheepd skins of two years old at nine shillings; sixteen ecalvese skins at two shillings.8 In 1425, twelve shillings contained about the same quantity of silver as four–and–twenty shillings of our present money. An ox hide, therefore, was in this account valued at the same quantity of silver as 4s. ⅘ths of our present money. Its nominal price was a good deal lower than at present. But at the rate of six shillings and eight–pence the quarter, twelve shillings would in those times have purchased fourteen bushels and four–fifths of a bushel of wheat, which, at three and six–pence the bushel, would in the present times cost 51s. 4d. An ox hide, therefore, would in those times have purchased as much corn as ten shillings and three–pence would purchase at present. Its real value was equal to ten shillings and three–pence of our present money. In those antient times, when the cattle were half starved during the greater part of the winter, we cannot suppose that they were of a very large size. An ox hide which weighs four stone of sixteen pounds averdupois, is not in the present times reckoned a bad one; and in those antient times would probably have been reckoned a very good one. But at half a crown the stone, which at this moment (February, 1773) I understand to be the common price, such a hide would at present cost only ten shillings. Though its nominal price, therefore, is higher in the present than it was in those antient times, its real price, the real quantity of subsistence which it will purchase or command, is rather somewhat lower. The price of cow hides, as stated in the above account, is nearly in the common proportion to that of ox hides. That of sheep skins is a good deal above it. They had probably been sold with the wool. That of calves skins, on the contrary, is greatly below it. In countries where the price of cattle is very low, the calves, which are not intended to be reared in order to keep up the stock, are generally killed very young; as was the case in Scotland twenty or thirty years ago. It saves the milk, which their price would not pay for. Their skins, therefore, are commonly good for little.
11The price of raw hides is a good deal lower at present than it was a few years ago; owing probably to the taking off the duty upon seal skins, and to the allowing, for a limited time, the importation of raw hides from Ireland and from the plantations duty free, which was done in 1769.9 Take the whole of the present century at an average, their real price has probably been somewhat higher than it was in those antient times. The nature of the commodity renders it not quite so proper for being transported to distant markets as wool. It suffers more by keeping. A salted hide is reckoned inferior to a fresh one, and sells for a lower price. This circumstance must necessarily have some tendency to sink the price of raw hides produced in a country which does not manufacture them, but is obliged to export them; and comparatively to raise that of those produced in a country which does manufacture them. It must have some tendency to sink their price in a barbarous, and to raise it in an improved and manufacturing country. It must have had some tendency therefore to sink it in antient, and to raise it in modern times. Our tanners besides have not been quite so successful as our clothiers, in convincing the wisdom of the nation, that the safety of the commonwealth depends upon the prosperity of their particular manufacture.10 They have accordingly been much less favoured. The exportation of raw hides has, indeed, been prohibited, and declared a nuisance:11 but their importation from foreign countries has been subjected to a duty;12 and though this duty has been taken off from those of Ireland and the plantations (for the limited time of five years only), yet Ireland has not been confined to the market of Great Britain for the sale of its surplus hides, or of those which are not manufactured at home. The hides of common cattle have but within these few years been put among the enumerated commodities which the plantations can send nowhere but to the mother country; neither has the commerce of Ireland been in this case oppressed hitherto, in order to support the manufactures of Great Britain.
12Whatever regulations tend to sink the price either of wool or of raw hides below what it naturally would be, must, in an improved and cultivated country, have some tendency to raise the price of butcher’s–meat. The price both of the great and small cattle, which are fed on improved and cultivated land, must be sufficient to pay the rent which the landlord, and the profit which the farmer has reason to expect from improved and cultivated land. If it is not, they will soon cease to feed them. Whatever part of this price, therefore, is not paid by the wool and the hide, must be paid by the carcase. The less there is paid for the one, the more must be paid for the other. In what manner this price is to be divided upon the different parts of the beast, is indifferent to the landlords and farmers, provided it is all paid to them. In an improved and cultivated country, therefore, their interest as landlords and farmers cannot be much affected by such regulations, though their interest as consumers may, by the rise in the price of provisions.13 It would be quite otherwise, however, in an unimproved and uncultivated country, where the greater part of the lands could be applied to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle, and where the wool and the hide made the principal part of the value of those cattle. Their interest as landlords and farmers would in this case be very deeply affected by such regulations, and their interest as consumers very little. The fall in the price of the wool and the hide, would not in this case raise the price of the carcase; because the greater part of the lands of the country being applicable to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle, the same number would still continue to be fed. The same quantity of butcher’s–meat would still come to market. The demand for it would be no greater than before. Its price, therefore, would be the same as before. The whole price of cattle would fall, and along with it both the rent and the profit of all those lands of which cattle was the principal produce, that is, of the greater part of the lands of the country. The perpetual prohibition of the exportation of wool, which is commonly, but very falsely, ascribed to Edward III,14 would, in the then circumstances of the country, have been the most destructive regulation which could well have been thought of. It would not only have reduced the actual value of the greater part of the lands of the kingdom, but by reducing the price of the most important species of small cattle, it would have retarded very much its subsequent improvement.
13The wool of Scotland fell very considerably in its price in consequence of the union with England, by which it was excluded from the great market of Europe, and confined to the narrow one of Great Britain.15 The value of the greater part of the lands in the southern counties of Scotland, which are chiefly a sheep country, would have been very deeply affected by this event, had not the rise in the price of butcher’s–meat fully compensated the fall in the price of wool.
14As the efficacy of human industry, in increasing the quantity either of wool or of raw hides, is limited, so far as it depends upon the produce of the country where it is exerted; so it is uncertain so far as it depends upon the produce of other countries. It so far depends, not so much upon the quantity which they produce, as upon that which they do not manufacture; and upon the restraints which they may or may not think proper to impose upon the exportation of this sort of rude produce. These circumstances, as they are altogether independent of domestick industry, so they necessarily render the efficacy of its efforts more or less uncertain. In multiplying this sort of rude produce, therefore, the efficacy of human industry is not only limited, but uncertain.
15In multiplying another very important sort of rude produce, the quantity of fish that is brought to market, it is likewise both limited and uncertain. It is limited by the local situation of the country, by the proximity or distance of its different provinces from the sea, by the number of its lakes and rivers, and by what may be called the fertility or barrenness of those seas, lakes and rivers, as to this sort of rude produce. As population increases, as the annual produce of the land and labour of the country grows greater and greater, there come to be more buyers of fish, and those buyers too have a greater quantity and variety of other goods, or, what is the same thing, the price of a greater quantity and variety of other goods, to buy with. But it will generally be impossible to supply the great and extended market without employing a quantity of labour greater than in proportion to what had been requisite for supplying the narrow and confined one. A market which, from requiring only one thousand, comes to require annually ten thousand ton of fish, can seldom be supplied without employing more than ten times the quantity of labour which had before been sufficient to supply it. The fish must generally be sought for at a greater distance, larger vessels must be employed, and more expensive machinery of every kind made use of. The real price of this commodity, therefore, naturally rises in the progress of improvement. It has accordingly done so, I believe, more or less in every country.
16Though the success of a particular day’s fishing may be a very uncertain matter, yet, the local situation of the country being supposed, the general efficacy of industry in bringing a certain quantity of fish to market, taking the course of a year, or of several years together, it may perhaps be thought, is certain enough; and it, no doubt, is so. As it depends more, however, upon the local situation of the country, than upon the state of its wealth and industry; as upon this account it may in different countries be the same in very different periods of improvement, and very different in the same period; its connection with the state of improvement is uncertain, and it is of this sort of uncertainty that I am here speaking.
17In increasing the quantity of the different minerals and metals which are drawn from the bowels of the earth, that of the more precious ones particularly, the efficacy of human industry seems not to be limited, but to be altogether uncertain.
18The quantity of the precious metals which is to be found in any country is not limited by any thing in its local situation, such as the fertility or barrenness of its own mines. Those metals frequently abound in countries which possess no mines. Their quantity in every particular country seems to depend upon two different circumstances; first, upon its power of purchasing, upon the state of its industry, upon the annual produce of its land and labour, in consequence of which it can afford to employ a greater or a smaller quantity of labour and subsistence in bringing or purchasing such superfluities as gold and silver, either from its own mines or from those of other countries; and, secondly, upon the fertility or barrenness of the mines which may happen at any particular time to supply the commercial world with those metals. The quantity of those metals in the countries most remote from the mines, must be more or less affected by this fertility or barrenness, on account of the easy and cheap transportation of those metals, of their small bulk and great value. Their quantity in China and Indostan must have been more or less affected by the abundance of the mines of America.
19So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the former of those two circumstances (the power of purchasing), their real price, like that of all other luxuries and superfluities, is likely to rise with the wealth and improvement of the country, and to fall with its poverty and depression. Countries which have a great quantity of labour and subsistence to spare, can afford to purchase any particular quantity of those metals at the expence of a greater quantity of labour and subsistence, than countries which have less to spare.
20So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the latter of those two circumstances (the fertility or barrenness of the mines which happen to supply the commercial world) their real price, the real quantity of labour and subsistence which they will purchase or exchange for, will, no doubt, sink more or less in proportion to the fertility, and rise in proportion to the barrenness of those mines.
21The fertility or barrenness of the mines, however, which may happen at any particular time to supply the commercial world, is a circumstance which, it is evident, may have no sort of connection with the state of industry in a particular country. It seems even to have no very necessary connection with that of the world in general. As arts and commerce, indeed, gradually spread themselves over a greater and a greater part of the earth, the search for new mines, being extended over a wider surface, may have somewhat a better chance for being successful, than when confined within narrower bounds. The discovery of new mines, however, as the old ones come to be gradually exhausted, is a matter of the greatest uncertainty, and such as no human skill or industry can ensure. All indications, it is acknowledged, are doubtful, and the actual discovery and successful working of a new mine can alone ascertain the reality of its value, or even of its existence. In this search there seem to be no certain limits either to the possible success, or to the possible disappointment of human industry. In the course of a century or two, it is possible that new mines may be discovered more fertile than any that have ever yet been known; and it is just equally possible that the most fertile mine then known may be more barren than any that was wrought before the discovery of the mines of America. Whether the one or the other of those two events may happen to take place, is of very little importance to the real wealth and prosperity of the world, to the real value of the annual produce of the land and labour of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity of gold and silver by which this annual produce could be expressed or represented, would, no doubt, be very different; but its real value, the real quantity of labour which it could purchase or command, would be precisely the same. A shilling might in the one case represent no more labour than a penny does at present; and a penny in the other might represent as much as a shilling does now. But in the one case he who had a shilling in his pocket, would be no richer than he who has a penny at present; and in the other he who had a penny would be just as rich as he who has a shilling now. The cheapness and abundance of gold and silver plate, would be the sole advantage which the world could derive from the one event, and the dearness and scarcity of those trifling superfluities the only inconveniency it could suffer from the other.
Conclusion of the Digression concerning the Variations in the Value of Silver
1The greater part of the writers who have collected the money prices of things in antient times, seem to have considered the low money price of corn, and of goods in general, or, in other words, the high value of gold and silver, as a proof, not only of the scarcity of those metals, but of the poverty and barbarism of the country at the time when it took place. This notion is connected with the system of political œconomy which represents national wealth as consisting in the abundance, and national poverty in the scarcity of gold and silver; a system which I shall endeavour to explain and examine at great length in the fourth book of this enquiry. I shall only observe at present, that the high value of the precious metals can be no proof of the poverty or barbarism of any particular country at the time when it took place. It is a proof only of the barrenness of the mines which happened at that time to supply the commercial world. A poor country, as it cannot afford to buy more, so it can as little afford to pay dearer for gold and silver than a rich one; and the value of those metals, therefore, is not likely to be higher in the former than in the latter. In China, a country much richer than any part of Europe,1 the value of the precious metals is much higher than in any part of Europe. As the wealth of Europe, indeed, has increased greatly since the discovery of the mines of America, so the value of gold and silver has gradually diminished. This diminution of their value, however, has not been owing to the increase of the real wealth of Europe, of the annual produce of its land and labour, but to the accidental discovery of more abundant mines than any that were known before. The increase of the quantity of gold and silver in Europe, and the increase of its manufactures and agriculture, are two events which, though they have happened nearly about the same time, yet have arisen from very different causes, and have scarce any natural connection with one another. The one has arisen from a mere accident, in which neither prudence nor policy either had or could have any share: The other from the fall of the feudal system, and from the establishment of a government which afforded to industry, the only encouragement which it requires, some tolerable security that it shall enjoy the fruits of its own labour.2 Poland, where the feudal system still continues to take place, is at this day as beggarly a country as it was before the discovery of America.3 The money price of corn, however, has risen; the real value of the precious metals has fallen in Poland, in the same manner as in other parts of Europe. Their quantity, therefore, must have increased there as in other places, and nearly in the same proportion to the annual produce of its land and labour. This increase of the quantity of those metals, however, has not, it seems, increased that annual produce, has neither improved the manufactures and agriculture of the country, nor mended the circumstances of its inhabitants. Spain and Portugal, the countries which possess the mines, are, after Poland, perhaps, the two most beggarly countries in Europe. The value of the precious metals, however, must be lower in Spain and Portugal than in any other part of Europe; as they come from those countries to all other parts of Europe, loaded, not only with a freight and an insurance, but with the expence of smuggling, their exportation being either prohibited, or subjected to a duty. In proportion to the annual produce of the land and labour, therefore, their quantity must be greater in those countries than in any other part of Europe: Those countries, however, are poorer than the greater part of Europe. Though the feudal system has been abolished in Spain and Portugal, it has not been succeeded by a much better.4
2As the low value of gold and silver, therefore, is no proof of the wealth and flourishing state of the country where it takes place; so neither is their high value, or the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, any proof of its poverty and barbarism.5
3But though the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, be no proof of the poverty or barbarism of the times, the low money price of some particular sorts of goods, such as cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, a&c.a in proportion to that of corn, is a most decisive one. It clearly demonstrates, first, their great abundance in proportion to that of corn, and consequently the great extent of the land which they occupied in proportion to what was occupied by corn; and, secondly, the low value of this land in proportion to that of corn land, and consequently the uncultivated and unimproved state of the far greater part of the lands of the country. It clearly demonstrates that the stock and population of the country did not bear the same proportion to the extent of its territory, which they commonly do in civilized countries, and that society was at that time, and in that country, but in its infancy. From the high or low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, we can infer only that the mines which at that time happened to supply the commercial world with gold and silver, were fertile or barren, not that the country was rich or poor. But from the high or low money–price of some sorts of goods in proportion to that of others, we can infer with a degree of probability that approaches almost to certainty, that it was rich or poor, that the greater part of its lands were improved or unimproved, and that it was either in a more or less barbarous state, or in a more or less civilized one.
4Any rise in the money price of goods which proceeded altogether from the degradation of the value of silver, would affect all sorts of goods equally, and raise their price universally a third, or a fourth, or a fifth part higher, according as silver happened to lose a third, or a fourth, or a fifth part of its former value.6 But the rise in the price of provisions, which has been the subject of so much reasoning and conversation, does not affect all sorts of provisions equally. Taking the course of the present century at an average, the price of corn, it is acknowledged, even by those who account for this rise by the degradation of the value of silver, has risen much less than that of some other sorts of provisions. The rise in the price of those other sorts of provisions, therefore, cannot be owing altogether to the degradation of the value of silver. Some other causes must be taken into the account, and those which have been above assigned, will, perhaps, without having recourse to the supposed degradation of the value of silver, sufficiently explain this rise in those particular sorts of provisions of which the price has actually risen in proportion to that of corn.
5As to the price of corn itself, it has, during the sixty–four first years of the present century, and before the late extraordinary course of bad seasons, been somewhat lower than it was during the sixty–four last years of the preceding century. This fact is attested, not only by the accounts of Windsor market, but by the publick fiars7 of all the different counties of Scotland, and by the accounts of several different markets in France, which have been collected with great diligence and fidelity by Mr. Messance, and by Mr. Dupré de St. Maur.8 The evidence is more compleat than could well have been expected in a matter which is naturally so very difficult to be ascertained.
6As to the high price of corn during these last ten or twelve years, it can be sufficiently accounted for from the badness of the seasons, without supposing any degradation in the value of silver.
7The opinion, therefore, that silver is continually sinking in its value, seems not to be founded upon any good observations, either upon the prices of corn, or upon those of other provisions.
8The same quantity of silver, it may, perhaps, be said, will in the present times, even according to the account which has been here given, purchase a much smaller quantity of several sorts of provisions than it would have done during some part of the last century; and to ascertain whether this change be owing to a rise in the value of those goods, or to a fall in the value of silver, is only to establish a vain and useless distinction, which can be of no sort of service to the man who has only a certain quantity of silver to go to market with, or a certain fixed revenue in money. I certainly do not pretend that the knowledge of this distinction will enable him to buy cheaper. It may not, however, upon that account be altogether useless.
9It may be of some use to the publick by affording an easy proof of the prosperous condition of the country. If the rise in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing altogether to a fall in the value of silver, it is owing to a circumstance from which nothing can be inferred but the fertility of the American mines. The real wealth of the country, the annual produce of its land and labour, may, notwithstanding this circumstance, be either gradually declining, as in Portugal and Poland; or gradually advancing, as in most other parts of Europe. But if this rise in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing to a rise in the real value of the land which produces them, to its increased fertility; or, in consequence of more extended improvement and good cultivation, to its having been rendered fit for producing corn; it is owing to a circumstance which indicates in the clearest manner the prosperous and advancing state of the country. The land constitutes by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of the wealth of every extensive country. It may surely be of some use, or, at least, it may give some satisfaction to the Publick, to have so decisive a proof of the increasing value of by far the greatest, the most important, and the most durable part of its wealth.
10It may too be of some use to the Publick in regulating the pecuniary reward of some of its inferior servants. If this rise in the price of some sorts of provisions be owing to a fall in the value of silver, their pecuniary reward, provided it was not too large before, ought certainly to be augmented in proportion to the extent of this fall. If it is not augmented, their real recompence will evidently be so much diminished. But if this rise of price is owing to the increased value, in consequence of the improved fertility of the land which produces such provisions, it becomes a much nicer matter to judge either in what proportion any pecuniary reward ought to be augmented, or whether it ought to be augmented at all. The extension of improvement and cultivation, as it necessarily raises more or less, in proportion to the price of corn, that of every sort of animal food, so it as necessarily lowers that of, I believe, every sort of vegetable food. It raises the price of animal food; because a great part of the land which produces it, being rendered fit for producing corn, must afford to the landlord and farmer the rent and profit of corn–land. It lowers the price of vegetable food; because, by increasing the fertility of the land, it increases its abundance. The improvements of agriculture too introduce many sorts of vegetable food, which, requiring less land and not more labour than corn, come much cheaper to market. Such are potatoes9 and maize, or what is called Indian corn, the two most important improvements which the agriculture of Europe, perhaps, which Europe itself, has received from the great extension of its commerce and navigation. Many sorts of vegetable food, besides, which in the rude state of agriculture are confined to the kitchen–garden, and raised only by the spade, come in its improved state to be introduced into common fields, and to be raised by the plough: such as turnips, carrots, cabbages, &c. If in the progress of improvement, therefore, the real price of one species of food necessarily rises, that of another as necessarily falls, and it becomes a matter of more nicety to judge how far the rise in the one may be compensated by the fall in the other.10 When the real price of butcher’s–meat has once got to its height (which, with regard to every sort, except, perhaps, that of hogs flesh, it seems to have done through a great part of England, more than a century ago), any rise which can afterwards happen in that of any other sort of animal food, cannot much affect the circumstances of the inferior ranks of people. The circumstances of the poor through a great part of England cannot surely be so much distressed by any rise in the price of poultry, fish, wild–fowl, or venison, as they must be relieved by the fall in that of potatoes.
11In the present season of scarcity the high price of corn no doubt distresses the poor. But in times of moderate plenty, when corn is at its ordinary or average price, the natural rise in the price of any other sort of rude produce cannot much affect them. They suffer more, perhaps, by the artificial rise which has been occasioned by taxes in the price of some manufactured commodities; as of salt, soap, leather, candles, malt, beer, and ale, &c.11
[1 ]Cf. J. Law, Money and Trade, 43–4: ‘There is no way Silver can be made more valuable, but by lessening the Quantity, or encreasing the Demand for it. If the Export and Consumption of Silver be greater than the Import, or the Demand be encreas’d; Silver will be of more Value. If the Quantity Imported be greater than the Quantity Exported or Consumed, or the Demand lessen’d; Silver will be of less Value.’
[1 ]25 Edward III, st. 2 (1350) in Statutes of the Realm, i.311; 25 Edward III, st. 1 in Ruffhead’s edition. See also I.x.c.34n.
[2 ]See above, I.viii.13.
[3 ]Smith seems to have made most conversions to contemporary values from the conversion table in M. Folkes, A Table of English Silver Coins (London, 1745), 142, though he did not always use the exact conversion ratio. Folkes gives the following proportions of ancient to contemporary values for particular coins.
[4 ]See above, I.v.22.
[5 ]W. Fleetwood, Chronicon Preciosum, 83–5.
[6 ]The date of the statute is uncertain. If it were during the 51st of Henry III, the date should be 1266–7. Statutes of the Realm, i.199, n., discusses the uncertainty. See above, I.iv.10, I.x.c.62, and below, I.xi.e.20.
[7 ]Prices of agricultural products remained fairly stable, though with a slow secular rise, from the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to the mid–fourteenth century. Fluctuations were considerable, particularly because of poor harvests, and so can affect statistical averages.
[8 ]Two separate quotations are given, but that of 5s. 8d. is probably a misprint since 118 quarters 2 bushels are reckoned to have cost £39. 8s. 4d. The Regulations and Establishment of the Household of Henry Algernon Percy, the Fifth Earl of Northumberland, at his castles of Wresill and Lekinfield in Yorkshire, begun A.D. MDXII (London, 1827), 2 and 4.
[9 ]15 Henry VI, c. 2 (1436).
[10 ]3 Edward IV, c. 2 (1463).
[11 ]1 and 2 Philip and Mary, c. 5 (1554).
[12 ]1 Elizabeth I, c. 11 (1558). Smith does not qualify his use of this and the previous statute. Both prohibited the export of wheat at the price he states, but 1 and 2 Philip and Mary, c. 5 allowed exports under licence and 1 Elizabeth I, c. 11 allowed exports from Norfolk and Suffolk under certain circumstances.
[13 ]5 Elizabeth, c. 5 (1562).
[14 ]Presumably Smith based his statement on an examination of the detailed examples of prices given in F. Dupré de Saint Maur’s Variations arrivées dans le prix de divers choses pendant le cours des cinq derniers siècles, printed in his Essai sur les Monnoies ou réflexions sur le rapport entre l’argent et les denrées (Paris, 1746) but separately paginated, 1–188. Dupré de Saint Maur was at one time Intendant of Basse–Guienne and also wrote the Recherches sur la valeur des Monnoies et sur le prix de grains avant et après le concile de Francfort (Paris, 1762).
[15 ]Essai sur la police générale des grains, sur leur prix et sur les effets de l’agriculture (Berlin, 1755), by C. J. Herbert. Smith mentions the Essai and Dupré’s work in Letter 115 addressed to Lord Hailes, dated 15 January 1769. The authorities cited in this letter include: William Fleetwood, Chronicum Preciosum, Messance, Recherches sur la population, Charles Smith, Three Tracts on the Corn Trade and Corn Laws (2nd ed., London, 1766) and Thomas Madox, History and Antiquities of the Exchequer of the Kings of England. From the Norman Conquest to Edward II (London, 1711).
[16 ]Smith states the contrary view at V.ii.c.5.
[b]with the tenant 1
[17 ]See above, I.viii.34.
[18 ]In Letter 115 addressed to Lord Hailes, dated 15 January 1769, Smith wrote that he would be obliged for a sight of Hailes’s paper upon prices as ‘I have no papers upon this subject’ apart from ‘an account of the fiars of Midlothian from 1626 & this was copied too from a printed Paper produced in a process before the Court of Session some years ago’. Smith added that he hoped to get additional information, and in particular an account from the Victualling Office, and also mentions that he had made use of certain English Acts of Parliament and some ‘Ordonnances of the french Kings’. In Letter 116 addressed to Hailes, dated 5 March 1769, Smith wrote to say that he had not yet received the paper and offered to send his servant for it. Hailes despatched the manuscript on the following day and in his accompanying letter (Letter 117) referred to ‘a Book lately published as to the prices of Corn &c. in England since the Conquest’ which he had not as yet seen. In Letter 118 addressed to Hailes, dated 12 March 1769, Smith acknowledged that the papers which he had received ‘will be of very great use to me’. On 23 May he returned the material ‘having taken a copy of that upon prices, as your Lordship permitted me to do it’. Hailes’s paper is included in the Corr. and entitled ‘Prices of Corn, Cattle &c. in Scotland from the earliest accounts to the death of James V’. It would appear from this correspondence with Hailes that Smith must have embarked on the analysis of what was to form part of the ‘Digression on Silver’ quite early.
[19 ]Examples of the conversion price are given in Hailes’s paper, for example with regard to deeds made by the Bishop of Murray (sic) for the years 1540, 1544, 1554, 1561. In 1544 it appears that the conversion price for ‘poultrie’ was 3d., and for salmon (per barrel) £2. 10s. Smith discussed the issue in Letter 118 addressed to Hailes, dated 12 March 1769, in the course of which he commented that ‘In this neighbourhood the price of good fowl, a hen, has been for many years from ten pence, to a Shilling and fifteen pence. Several years ago a friend of mine converted all the Poultry upon his estate at a Shilling. Five pence, however, is a common conversion price in a lease, the option being in the Landlord. Leases of this kind have been let within [these] two or three years.’ In this letter, Smith also adverted to the ‘extremely loose and inaccurate’ notions of our ancestors with regard to grain prices, pointing out that ‘the same nominal sum was frequently considered as the Average price both of grain and of other things’ in periods where there had been substantial alterations in the intrinsic value of the coin. See above, I.v.
[20 ]Smith is not quite accurate. Fleetwood wrote (Chronicon Preciosum, 121–2):
[21 ]Statutes of the Realm, i.199, n. does not confirm Smith’s view of the editions before Ruffhead. See above, I.iv.10, I.x.c.62, and I.xi.e.6.
[22 ]Statutes of the Realm, i.201, gives date as uncertain. Ruffhead attributes to 51 Henry III, st. 6. The problem is similar to that over the Assize of Bread and Ale. See above, I.iv.10.
[23 ]Statutes of the Realm, i.202, translates as, ‘And so from henceforth the Prices shall increase and decrease after the Rate of Sixpence.’
[24 ]In Letter 119, addressed to Lord Hailes, dated 16 May 1769, Smith agreed that the Regiam Majestatem had probably been written at a time ‘posterior to Richard 2nd.’ and that the work was not intended to be a record of original statutes, being rather ‘the composition of some private man, who meant to describe the great outlines of the Laws and customs of his Country, which he supposed, or had been told by tradition, were first introduced by some antient and famous king of the name of Malcolm; either Malcolm McKenneth or Malcolm Canmore; the former just as probably as the latter.’ Hailes’s position had been established in An Examination of Some of the Arguments for the High Antiquity of Regiam Majestatem (Edinburgh, 1769).
[ff* ]See his preface to Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiae.f [James Anderson, Selectus diplomatum et numismatum Scotiae thesaurus, ed. T. Ruddiman (Edinburgh, 1739), 82. In translation, T. Ruddiman, An Introduction to Mr. James Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiae (Edinburgh, 1782), 228, though Ruddiman records, 174, that a boll of corn sold for 18s. Scots in 1435 and for 30s. Scots in 1438.]
[25 ]Fleetwood was aware of this danger. He quoted from Antiq. Britan in Vita Joh. Pecham that ‘provisions were so scarce that parents did eat their own children’, but adds he hopes be need not be believed ‘’tis only an Expression of the greatest Want imaginable’ (Chronicon Preciosum, 78–9).
[26 ]Smith comments on feudal anarchy at III.ii.7, III.iv.9; cf. III.i.3 and V.iii.1.
[27 ]Regional variations in prices in England were declining in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. N. S. B. Gras, The Evolution of the English Corn Market from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century (London, 1915).
[28 ]Inaccuracy and the variety of conclusions reached on the basis of the same information may help to explain Smith’s lack of faith in political arithmetic as stated at IV.v.b.30. In his section on ‘Prix des grains en Angleterre’, Dupré de Saint Maur uses Fleetwood’s figures (Essai sur les monnoies, 183–8). His statistics, and those of Smith in the Appendix to Book I, are normally identical. In Letter 119, addressed to Hailes, dated 16 May 1769, Smith commented on ‘The Discrepancies which your Lordship has taken notice of in the prices of several different things’ as being similar to those which ‘occur in the antient Coutumes of many different provinces of france. Mr Du Pré de Saint Maur has tortured his brain to reconcile them and make them all consistent.’
[29 ]‘Without doubt the wheat of Chili is the finest in the world, and the fruits are all excellent in their kinds. Beef and Mutton are so cheap, that you may have a good cow for three dollars, and a fat sheep for two shillings. Their horses are extraordinary good; and though some of them go at a great price, you may have a very good one for four dollars, or about eighteen shillings of our money.’ (J. Byron, Narrative of the Hon. John Byron, containing an Account of the Great Distresses suffered by himself and his companions on the Coast of Patagonia from the Year 1740 until their Arrival in England 1746 (London, 1780), 226.)
[30 ]See above, I.xi.b.7. Smith comments on the long–run trends in prices of this kind in I.xi.l.
[31 ]See above, I.v.1.
[32 ]Smith comments on the falling price of meat at I.xi.b.19 and I.xi.1.8.
[33 ]See above, I.v.15.
[34 ]It is stated below, V.ii.k.15, that butcher’s meat is nowhere a necessary of life; Cf. I.xi.b.41. Smith discusses the relationship between wages and the price of corn in I.viii.
[k–k]agreeable to 1
[35 ]Cf. Harris, Essay, i.68: ‘. . . the value of a given quantity or sum of money, in any country, will be less or more, according as the sum total, or the whole quantity of money in currency, is greater or less, in proportion to the whole of the commodities of that country, exchangeable for money.’
[36 ]See above, I.v.i.
[37 ]The same point is made below, I.xi.n.1, and above, I.viii.24.
[38 ]The same point is made at I.viii.33.
[39 ]The same point is made at I.ix.8.
[40 ]See above, I.viii.
[41 ]See above, I.xi.b.12 and IV.ix.37.
[1 ]‘Everybody agrees that the abundance of money or its increase in exchange, raises the price of everything. The quantity of money brought from America to Europe for the last two centuries justifies this truth by experience.’ (Cantillon, Essai, 212, ed. Higgs 161.)
[2 ]See above, I.v.7, and below, IV.i.32 and V.ii.c.5.
[b–b]thirty 1–2 (twenty 2e–6)
[3 ]LJ (A) vi.134–5 comments that ‘From the fall of the Roman empire till the discovery of the Span. West Indies prices continually rose, since which they have fallen, unless at the Revolution when they rose for some time.’ Cf. LJ (B) 254, ed. Cannan 198.
[4 ]‘It hath been found that the value of all the Wheat fit for bread, if mixed together, would be eight ninths of the value of the best Wheat, and the same proportion may reasonable be supposed in Barley’. (C. Smith, Three Tracts on the Corn Trade and Corn Laws (2nd ed., London, 1766), 104.)
[1 ]1 William and Mary, c. 12 (1688). When malt or barley did not exceed 24s. per Winchester quarter, rye, 32s., wheat 48s., the bounties per quarter were 2s. 6d. for malt or barley, 3s. 6d. for rye, and 5s. for wheat. See below, III.iv.20, IV.v.a.5, IV.v.b.37, V.ii.k.13.
[2 ]See below, IV.v.a.7.
[3 ]The impact of the bounty on the state of tillage is considered in LJ (A) vi.95; cf. LJ (B) 233, ed. Cannan 180.
[4 ]Below, IV.v.
[5 ]10 William III, c.3. The prohibition was for one year from 10 February 1699.
[6 ]Though clipping had been reducing the weight of coins for a century, the price of silver bullion began to rise only in 1694, and very sharply only in 1695. J. K. Horsefield, British Monetary Experiments 1650–1710 (Cambridge Mass., 1960), 11 and 27.
[7 ]‘I infer, First, That the Moneys commonly Currant are Diminished near one Half, to wit, in a Proportion something greater than that of Ten to Twenty two.’ (W. Lowndes, Report, 107.) Lowndes is mentioned below, IV.iii.a.9.
[8 ]The recoinage of 1774 is considered at I.v.29 and IV.vi.18.
[9 ]‘The value of the Silver in the Coin ought to be Raised to the Foot of Six Shillings Three Pence in every Crown, because the Price of Standard Silver in Bullion is Risen (from divers necessary and unnecessary Causes, producing at length a great scarcity thereof in England) to Six Shillings Five Pence an Ounce.’ (W. Lowndes, Report, 68.)
[10 ]See below, IV.v.a.
[h]; a notion which I shall examine hereafter 1
[11 ]A mistake. 19/32 should read 9/32. See below (274).
[12 ]A mistake. The reduction is about 21·5 per cent. The fall has been calculated on the average of £2. 0s. 6 19/32d. for 1701 to 1764 instead of on the average of £2. 11s. 0½d. for 1637 to 1700.
[13 ]Gregory King, State and Condition of England, 1688, in G. Chalmers, Comparative Strength of Great Britain to 1803, 53; quoted in C. D’avenant, Political and Commercial Works, ed. C. Whitworth, ii.217, who adds ‘this value is what the same is worth upon the spot where the corn grew; but this value is increased by the carriage to the place where it is at last spent, at least ¼ part more.’ King is mentioned above, I.viii.34.
[14 ]1 William and Mary, c.12 (1688). See I.xi.g.4.
[15 ]See below, IV.v.a.23, where Smith comments on the futility of this policy.
[16 ]In LJ (A) vi.139 the yield of the land tax in King William’s time, calculated at 4s. in the pound, is stated to have been £2·5 million in England. See also LJ (B) 234, ed. Cannan 181.
[17 ]Cf. IV.i.14 and IV.v.a.5.
[18 ]Below, IV.v.a.7.
[19 ]Smith refers to Messance above, I.viii.49, as an author of ‘great knowledge and ingenuity’. In Letter 115 addressed to Hailes, dated 15 January 1769, wherein Smith reviewed a number of printed authorities, Messance was described as ‘the most judicious author of them all’. See also I.xi.n.5.
[20 ]Below, IV.v.a.5 and IV.ix.38.
[21 ]Above, I.v.15.
[22 ]A view which is supported by recent investigations. The weather in the early 1770s seems to have been unfavourable. E. L. Jones, Seasons and Prices (London, 1964), 144–6.
[23 ]See below, I.xi.n.1.
[24 ]The sum of £1. 6s. 8d. is obtained by deducting one–ninth from £1 13s. 9⅘d. to allow for the difference in measure, and then by deducting one–ninth from the remainder to take account of the difference in quality. See above, I.xi.f.4.
[25 ]The amounts said to have been paid in bounties in this paragraph were derived by multiplying the figures for grain exported given in C. Smith, Three Tracts on the Corn Trade and Corn Laws (London, 1766), 110–11, by the bounties quoted ibid., 81 n. See above, 212, n. 1.
[26 ]‘It is hardly possible to suppose, that the provisions necessary for the poor can be dear in this country, where there is such a superabundance of corn, that incredible quantities have been lately exported. I should be afraid to mention what quantities have been exported, if it did not appear upon our custom–house books; but from them it appears, that lately there was in three months’ time above £220,000 paid for bounties upon corn exported; and all our other exports have, since the peace, been more considerable than they had ever been for many years before.’ (Cobbett’s Parliamentary History, xiv (1747–53), col. 589 (1749).)
[27 ]See below, IV.v.a.39, where it is stated that the bounty had sometimes cost more than £300,000. Cf. V.ii.k.29.
[28 ]Smith’s figures at the end of the chapter do not continue to 1770 but stop in 1764. It is difficult to see why he cites 1759 as a cheap year, since the price he gives for 1761 is 9s. 7d. lower.
[29 ]There were regional variations. The index of money wages in London rose from 100 in 1700 to 118 in 1776; in Lancashire from 100 to 200. The comparable indices of real wages were 100 to 98 and 100 to 167. E. W. Gilboy, ‘The Cost of Living and Real Wages in Eighteenth Century England’, Review of Economic Statistics, xviii (1936), 134–43.
[30 ]Above, I.viii.35.
[31 ]Above, I.xi.c.25.
[32 ]Date given in Juan and Ulloa, Voyage historique, i.521–2, trans. John Adams, ii.146–7.
[v–v]a century 1
[w–w]A hundred 1
[33 ]See above, I.vii.6.
[34 ]See above, I.iv.2, where Smith discusses the inconveniences of barter, and below, IV.vii.b.7, where Mexico is cited in addition to Peru as an example of such an economy. See, however, LJ (A) vi.117–18: ‘The Europeans, on their first going into China, Mexico, Peru, and all the eastern countries, found metalls used as the instruments of commerce, and they had the publick stamp upon them . . .’
[35 ]See below, IV.vii.b.7–9. Smith comments on the advantage of English institutions to the colonies at IV.vii.b.16–25.
[36 ]This point is made at I.ix.11, IV.vii.b.2 and 6.
[37 ]‘The number of Spanish Families in Lima may make up about 8 or 9,000 Whites; the rest are only Mestizo’s, Mulatto’s, Blacks and some Indians; tho’ in the whole, there are about 25 or 30,000 Souls, including the Friers and Nuns, who take up at least a Quarter of the City.’ (A. F. Frézier, A Voyage to the South Sea, 218.)
[38 ]The same figure is cited below, IV.vii.b.7. Juan and Ulloa do not quote an exact figure but state: ‘the inhabitants of Lima are composed of whites, or Spaniards, Negroes, Indians, Mestizos and other casts proceeding from the mixture of all three.’ Of Spanish families there were ‘sixteen or eighteen thousand whites’; ‘the Negroes, Mulattoes, and their descendants, form the greatest number of the inhabitants’; the Indians and Mestizos ‘are very small in proportion to the largeness of the city, and the multitudes of the second class’. (Voyage historique, i.443–5, trans. John Adams, ii.52–5.)
[39 ]Juan and Ulloa (Voyage historique, i.468 and ii.49, trans. John Adams, ii.84 and 258) gave Callao as having a population of 4,000 and Santiago ‘at about four thousand families’. Frézier (A Voyage to the South Sea, 102 and 202) suggests the number of inhabitants in Callao does not exceed 400 ‘tho’ they reckon 600’; in Santiago, 2,000 white, with the rest about three times as great without including ‘Friendly Indians’, whom he puts at 15,000.
[40 ]One ship, and after 1720 two ships, were to sail from Acapulco to the Philippines. Details of the trade, particularly of what could be carried are in G. de Uztariz, The Theory and Practice of Commerce, translated by John Kippax (London, 1751), i.206–8.
[41 ]12 George III, c.54 (1772) prohibited the East India Company from building ships at home until its total tonnage in service was below 45,000 tons and from employing ships constructed after March 1772. The objective was to conserve supplies of timber.
[42 ]See above, I.xi.b.37.
[43 ]A similar point is made above, I.xi.c.36.
[a]in India 1
[44 ]See below, I.xi.h.2.
[45 ]Above, I.viii.24.
[46 ]See above, I.iii.7.
[47 ]‘In Japan where there are a good many silver mines the ratio of gold to silver is today 1 to 8: in China 1 to 10: in the other countries of the Indies on this side 1 to 11, 1 to 12, 1 to 13, and 1 to 14, as we get nearer to the West and to Europe.’ (Cantillon, Essai, 365, ed. Higgs 275.) ‘In Japan, the proportion of gold to silver, is as one to eight; in China, as one to ten; in other parts of India, as one to eleven, twelve, thirteen or fourteen, as we advance further west. The like variations are to be met in with Europe . . . When Columbus penetrated into America, the proportion was less than one to twelve. The quantity of these metals which was then brought from Mexico and Peru, not only made them more common, but still increased the value of gold above silver, as there were greater plenty of the latter in those parts. Spain, that was of course the best judge of the proportion, settled it at one to fifteen in the coin of the kingdom; and this system, with some slight variations, was adopted throughout Europe.’ (G. T. F. Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes (Amsterdam, 1775), iii.381, translated by J. Justamond, A Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies (Edinburgh, 1777), ii.423–4.)
[d–d]the principal commodity 1
[ff* ]Postscript to the Universal Merchant, p. 15 and 16. This Postscript was not printed till 1756, three years after the publication of the book, which has never had a second edition. The postscript is, therefore, to be found in few copies. It corrects several errors in the book.f
[48 ]It is stated below that the annual imports into Spain and Portugal does not much exceed six millions sterling, IV.i.28.
[49 ]G. T. F. Raynal, Histoire philosophique, iii.307–8, trans. J. Justamond, ii.368–9.
[50 ]The same point is made below, I.xi.h.6. Cf. G. T. F. Raynal, Histoire philosophique, iii.380, trans. J. Justamond, ii.423:
[51 ]See above, I.v.16.
[1 ]N. Magens, The Universal Merchant, ed. Horsley, 207, reprints Isaac Newton’s Representation to the Lords of the Treasury and quotes: ‘In China and Japan, 1 Pound Weight of fine Gold is worth but 9 or 10 Pounds Weight of fine Silver; and in East–India it may be worth 12. And this low Price of Gold in Proportion to Silver carries away the Silver from all Europe’. Magens adds in a note: ‘Till about the Year 1732, we know of great Quantities of Silver going from Europe to China, to fetch Gold back, which has caused the Price of Gold in China to rise so much, that it is now not worth sending farther any Silver there.’ Cantillon was less sure of the attractiveness of the trade in gold and silver ‘Taking the ratio at 1 to 15 in England and 1 to 8 in Japan there would be more than 87 per cent. to gain by carrying silver from England to Japan and bringing back gold. But this difference is not enough in the ordinary course to pay the costs of so long and difficult a voyage.’ (Cantillon, Essai, 370, ed. Higgs 279.)
[bb* ]See Ruddiman’s Preface to Anderson’s Diplomata &c. Scotiæ.b [James Anderson, Selectus diplomatum et numismatum Scotiæ thesaurus, ed. T. Ruddiman (Edinburgh, 1739), 84–5; and see below, II.ii.42.]
[2 ]Above, I.xi.c.25 and I.xi.g.21.
[3 ]Above, I.xi.c.28.
[i–i]The tax of the king of Portugal, indeed, upon the gold of the Brazils, is the same with that of the king of Spain, upon the silver of Mexico and Peru; or one fifth part of the standard metal. It must still be true, however, that the whole mass of American gold comes to the European market, at a price nearer to the lowest for which it is possible to bring it thither, than the whole mass of American silver. When all expences are computed, it would seem, the whole quantity of the one metal cannot be disposed of so advantageously as the whole quantity of the other. 1
[4 ]Above, I.xi.g.33.
[j–j]Were the king of Spain to give up his tax upon silver, the price of that metal might not, upon that account, sink immediately in the European market. As long as the quantity brought thither continued the same as before, it would still continue to sell at the same price. The first and immediate effect of this change, would be to increase the profits of mining, the undertaker of the mine now gaining all that he had been used to pay to the king. These great profits would soon tempt a greater number of people to undertake the working of new mines. Many mines would be wrought which cannot be wrought at present, because they cannot afford to pay this tax, and the quantity of silver brought to market would, in a few years, be so much augmented, probably, as to sink its price about one–fifth below its present standard. This diminution in the value of silver would again reduce the profits of mining nearly to their present rate.
[5 ]Above, I.xi.c.25 and I.xi.g.21.
[k–k]2–6 [includes the whole of this paragraph]
[l–l]That the first of these three events has already begun to take place, or that silver has during the course of the present century, begun to rise somewhat in its value in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been alledged above dispose me to believe. 1
[6 ]See above, I.v.12.
[n–n]2A–6 [includes § 12 and 13]
[ ][[see note n–nabove]]
[7 ]‘If the annual consumption of bullion in Europe, both by the East–India trade, and by the conversion of it into plate, be equal to what the American mines annually supply; the value of money taken abstractly, or without referring it to commodities, will remain invariable: But if the said consumption be less, or more, than the said produce of the mines; the whole quantity of money will be accordingly increased, or diminished; and the value of a given part or sum, will be lessened, or increased, in that proportion.’ (J. Harris, Essay, i.79.)
[b], perhaps, 1
[d]in any country 1
[1 ]Above, I.xi.e.30.
[2 ]Above, I.xi.d.
[1 ]The same figures are cited above, I.xi.b.12. cf. Steuart, Principles, II.xxx. ‘Quest. 3’.
[2 ]‘There were two kinds of purchase to be carried out, the first of a tithe, the second an additional purchase to be distributed fairly among the various communities. . . . The price fixed was 3 sesterces a peck for the tithe corn and 3½ sesterces a peck for the requisitioned corn’. (Cicero, Verrine Orations, iii.70, translated by L. H. G. Greenwood in Loeb Classical Library (1935), ii.200–1.)
[3 ]See above, I.xi.g.17.
[4 ]Further examples are provided below, IV.ix.47.
[5 ]‘I know of one bird, a white one it is true, which is nearly unprecedented, that was sold for 600,000 sesterces to be given as a present to the emperor Claudius’s consort Agrippina.’ (Pliny, Natural History, X.xliii, translated by H. Rackham in Loeb Classical Library (1950), iii.347.)
[6 ]‘With a fish of this kind one of the proconsulur body, Asinius Celer, in the principate of Gaius, issued a challenge—it is not so easy to say who won the match—to all the spend–thrifts by giving 8,000 sesterces for a mullet.’ (Ibid. IX.xxxi, trans. Rackham, iii.207.)
[1 ]Above, I.xi.e.27.
[2 ]See above, I.xi.b.7, for an analysis of this issue.
[3 ]See I.xi.b.8.
[4 ]Not till almost a century after the Union. The difficulties of wintering cattle proved a major hurdle in the expansion of the Scottish cattle trade.
[5 ]See above, I.xi.b.15 and I.xi.l.8.
[a–a]rises first 1
[6 ]Smith argued that this particular advantage was less likely to accrue to Ireland at IV.ii.17. He describes some of the political advantages arising from union at V.iii.89. In Letter 50 addressed to Strahan, dated 4 April 1760, Smith commented with regard to Scotland that in the short run, Union with England had depressed the dignity of the nobility, gentry, clerical, and even the merchant classes. He added: ‘Nothing, however, appears to me more excusable than the disaffection of Scotland at that time. The Union was a measure from which infinite Good had been derived to this country. The Prospect of that good, however, must then have appeared very remote and very uncertain. . . . The dignity of the nobility was undone by it . . . Even the merchants seemed to suffer at first.’ In connection with the latter point, Smith argued that although the colonial trade was opened as a result of union, Scottish merchants were less familiar with the new trade patterns than they were with the more traditional continental routes, now ‘laid under new embaressments’.
[7 ]See above, I.xi.b.7.
[8 ]‘Aoke Helm . . . upwards of seventy years of age . . . told us, that in his youth there was grass in the woods, which grew very close, and was every where two feet high; but that it was so much lessened at present, that the cattle hardly find food enough, and that therefore four cows now give no more milk than one at that time; but the causes of this alteration are easy to find. In the younger years of old Helm, the country was little inhabited, and hardly the tenth part of the cattle kept which is at present; a cow had therefore as much food at that time, as ten now have. Further, most kinds of grass here are annual . . . they must sow themselves every year . . . The great numbers of cattle hinder this sowing, as the grass is eaten before it can produce flowers and fruit.’ (P. Kalm, Travels into North America, translated by J. R. Forster (Warrington, 1770), i.343–4.)
[9 ]‘Thanks to the expenditure in this way of money and care, so Marcus Terentius [Varro] informs us, these birds were often bought for three denarii a piece in our grandfather’s time, when those who celebrated triumphs gave a feast to the people. But at the present day luxury has made this their everyday price; wherefore this source of income must not be despised even by farmers.’ (Columella, De Re Rustica, viii.10, translated by E. S. Forster and E. H. Heffner in Loeb Classical Library (1954), ii.373–5.) ‘From the aviary alone which is in that villa I happen to know that there were sold 5,000 fieldfares, for three denarii apiece, so that that department of the villa in that year brought in sixty thousand sesterces—twice as much as your farm of 200 iugera at Reate brings in’. (Varro, De Re Rustica, iii.2, translated by W. D. Hooper, revised by H. B. Ash in the Loeb Classical Library (1934), 436–7.)
[10 ]See above, I.xi.c.31.
[11 ]See above, I.xi.b.15 and I.xi.l.2.
[12 ]‘No one who lives in the country is ignorant of the profits arising from the hog; his flesh sells for more than that of the ox.’ (Buffon, Histoire naturelle, translated as Barr’s Buffon’s Natural History (London, 1797), v.299.) In his Edinburgh Review article of 1755, Smith referred to Buffon as a gentleman of ‘the most universally acknowledged merit’ and as being connected with the writing of ‘a compleat system of natural history’.
[13 ]It is remarked above, I.x.b.49, that cottagers still subsist in Scotland, although in smaller numbers than formerly.
[d–d]their 4 <corrected 4e–6>
[14 ]See above, I.xi.b.35.
[1 ]‘A sheep by the laws of Athelstan was estimated at a shilling; that is, fifteen–pence of our money. The fleece was two–fifths of the value of the whole sheep; much above its present estimation; and the reason probably was, that the Saxons, like the ancients, were little acquainted with any clothing but what was made of wool.’ (D. Hume, The History of England (1778), i.226.)
[2 ]‘It is the usual custom to buy the hides of the beast, the carcase being in some measure a gratuitous addition; and the meat is always fat and very palateable.’ (Juan and Ulloa, Voyage historique, i.552, trans. John Adams, ii.187.)
[* ]See Smith’s Memoirs of Wool, avol.i.c.5, 6, and 7; also, vol.ii.c.176.a [In the Parliament of 1339, ‘the Laity granted the King one half of all their Wool for the next Summer. At the same time he took the whole from the Clergy, making them pay nine Marks for every Sack of the best Wool. Which nine Marks per Sack was equal to 14s. per Stone of our present Money.’ John Smith, Chronicon Rusticum Commerciale; or Memoirs of Wool, etc. (London, 1747), i.25, n.]
[3 ]See below, IV.viii.25, where Smith is described as the ‘very accurate and intelligent author of the Memoirs of Wool’.
[4 ]14 Charles II, c.18 (1662) in Statutes of the Realm, v.410–412; 13 and 14 Charles II, c.18 in Ruffhead’s edition. See below, IV.viii.18, IV.viii.33, IV.viii.35, V.ii.k.23.
[b–b]all other countries 1–2
[5 ]H. Saxby, The British Customs (London, 1757), 263, states that Spanish wool for clothing and Spanish felt–wool was duty free.
[6 ]10 William III, c.16 (1698) in Statutes of the Realm, vii.524–8; 10 and 11 William III, c.10 in Ruffhead’s edition.
[7 ]In Letter 201 addressed to Henry Dundas, dated 1 November 1779, and in Letter 202 addressed to Lord Carlisle, dated 8 November 1779, Smith referred to the restraints which had been placed on the Irish woollen industry. He wrote to Carlisle that:
[8 ]W. Fleetwood, Chronicon Preciosum, 100.
[9 ]9 George III, c.39 (1769), extended by 14 George III, c.86 (1774) and 21 George III, c.29 (1781). See below, IV.viii.3.
[10 ]It is stated at IV.viii.17 that the manufacturers of woollen goods had been ‘more successful than any other class of workmen’ in persuading the legislature to give protection to the trade. See generally I.xi.p.10.
[11 ]By 5 Elizabeth I, c.22 (1562), amended and confirmed by 8 Elizabeth I, c.14 (1566), and 18 Elizabeth I, c.9 (1575). 14 Charles II, c.7 (1662) in Statutes of the Realm, v. 397; 13 and 14 Charles II, c.7 in Ruffhead’s edition declares that ‘all such Exportation and Transportation of any Hides or Leather contrary to this Act is hereby adjudged and declared to be a common and publick Nusance’. See below, IV.viii.34.
[12 ]9 Anne, c.12 (1710) in Statutes of the Realm, ix.405–17; 9 Anne, c.11 in Ruffhead’s edition.
[13 ]This passage, from the beginning of the paragraph, is quoted below at IV.viii.26.
[14 ]John Smith (Memoirs of Wool, i.25) commented that the words of the statute ‘are far from implying a fixed Resolution of prohibiting absolutely, for ever, the Exportation of Wool; on the contrary, they only denote at the most a temporary Expedient or Revulsion in Favour of the Woolen Manufacture, then about to be enlarged in England.’
[15 ]An Act of 1704 permitted the export of wool (Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, xi.190) to meet the claims of the politically powerful woolmasters. The wider market gave better prices for Scottish wool, though the removal of cheaper wool was a factor in the collapse of the Scottish woolen industry which had been encouraged by a policy of protection. W. R. Scott, The New Mills Cloth Manufactory (Edinburgh, 1905), lxxix–lxxxiii. The woolmasters suffered by the Union but the major benefit of the Union to the English woollen trade was that of closing an illicit outlet for their wool through Scotland to foreign producers. C. Gulvin, ‘The Union and the Scottish Woollen Industry 1707–1760’, Scottish Historical Review, l (1971), 122–3. In general the Scottish clip was not of interest to the English producers. See also IV.viii.25.
[1 ]See above, I.viii.24 and I.xi.e.34.
[2 ]See below, III.iv.4. The decline of the feudal system is examined in III.
[3 ]The ‘disorders’ in Poland are mentioned at I.xi.g.17, and its feudal structure at III.ii.8.
[4 ]Cf. III.iv.22. The causes of the slow progress of Spain and Portugal are summarized at IV.vii.c.53.
[5 ]‘Let the Value of Gold and Silver either rise or fall, the Enjoyment of all Societies will ever depend upon the Fruits of the Earth, and the Labour of the People; both which joined together are a more certain, a more inexhaustible, and a more real Treasure, than the Gold of Brazil, or the Silver of Potosi.’ (Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, pt. i.216, ed. Kaye i.197–8.)
[6 ]Strictly silver should lose a fourth, a fifth, or a sixth part of its value.
[7 ]Public fiars are mentioned above, I.viii.34.
[8 ]See above, I.xi.g.15.
[9 ]See above, I.xi.b.41, where Smith comments on the nourishing qualities of the potato.
[10 ]See above, I.viii.35.
[11 ]See above, I.viii.35, and below, IV.ii.33, V.ii.k.11.
[ff* ]See his preface to Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiae.f [James Anderson, Selectus diplomatum et numismatum Scotiae thesaurus, ed. T. Ruddiman (Edinburgh, 1739), 82. In translation, T. Ruddiman, An Introduction to Mr. James Anderson’s Diplomata Scotiae (Edinburgh, 1782), 228, though Ruddiman records, 174, that a boll of corn sold for 18s. Scots in 1435 and for 30s. Scots in 1438.]
[ff* ]Postscript to the Universal Merchant, p. 15 and 16. This Postscript was not printed till 1756, three years after the publication of the book, which has never had a second edition. The postscript is, therefore, to be found in few copies. It corrects several errors in the book.f
[bb* ]See Ruddiman’s Preface to Anderson’s Diplomata &c. Scotiæ.b [James Anderson, Selectus diplomatum et numismatum Scotiæ thesaurus, ed. T. Ruddiman (Edinburgh, 1739), 84–5; and see below, II.ii.42.]
[* ]See Smith’s Memoirs of Wool, avol.i.c.5, 6, and 7; also, vol.ii.c.176.a [In the Parliament of 1339, ‘the Laity granted the King one half of all their Wool for the next Summer. At the same time he took the whole from the Clergy, making them pay nine Marks for every Sack of the best Wool. Which nine Marks per Sack was equal to 14s. per Stone of our present Money.’ John Smith, Chronicon Rusticum Commerciale; or Memoirs of Wool, etc. (London, 1747), i.25, n.]