Imágenes de páginas


it has already been observed, is, in all the dif- C HA P. ferent stages of wealth and improvement, a more accurate measure of value than any other commodity or set of commodities. In all those dif. ferent stages, therefore, we can judge better of the real value of filver, by comparing it with corn, than by comparing it with any other commodity, or set of commodities.

Corn, besides, or whatever else is the common and favourite vegetable food of the people, constitutes, in every civilized country, the principal part of the fubfiftence 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 infignificant part of his fubfiftence; poultry makes a ftill smaller part of it, and game no part of it. In France, and even in Scotland, where labour is somewhat bettet rewarded than in France, the labouring poor fel. dom 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 fub. fistence of the labourer, than upon that of buta cher's meat, or of any other part of the rude produce of land. The real value of gold and filver, therefore, the real quantity of labour which they can purchase or command, depends much more upon the quantity of corn which they can

U 3



BO O K purchase or command, than upon that of but

cher's-meat, or any other part of the rude produce of land.

Such Night 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 influenced, at the same time, 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. This notion, however, seems to be altogether groundless.

The quantity of the precious metals may increase in any country from two different causes: either, first, from the increased abundance of the mines which fupply it; or, fecondly, 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,

When 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 quan. tities 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 fome diminution of their value.

When, on the contrary, the wealth of any country increases, when the annual produce of


its labour becomes gradually greater and greater, CH A P. 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 oftentation, or from the fame reason that the quantity of fine ftatues, 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, fo gold and silver are not likely to be worse paid for.

The 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 filver, 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 beft afford it. Labour, it muft be remembered, is the ultimate price which is paid for every thing, and in countries where labour is equally well rewarded, the money price of labour will be in proportion to that of the fubfiftence of the labourer. But gold and silver will naturally exchange for a greater quantity of subsistence in a rich than in a




BOOK poor country, in a country which abounds with

subsistence, than in one which is but indiffer, ently 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, and the difference between the price of fubfiftence 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 moneyprice of corn in those two countries is much smaller, and is but just perceptible. In propor, tion 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 fomewhat dearer. Scotland receives almost every year very large supplies from Eng, land, and every commodity must commonly be somewhat dearer in the country to which it is brought than in that from which it comes. Eng. lish 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 fold higher there than the


Scotch corn, which comes to market in compe. C HA P. tition with it.

XI. The difference between the money price of labour in China and in Europe, is still greater than that between the money price of fubfift. ence; 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 feems 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 advanc, ing to greater wealth, advancing much more flowly than England. The 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. 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, ftationary, or declining condition.

Gold and silver, as they are naturally of the greatest value among the richeft, so they are naturally of the least value among the poorest nations. Among favages, the poorest of all nations, they are of scarce any value.

In 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 dearnefs of corn. It does not coft less labour to bring filver to the great town than to the remote parts of the country; but it costs a great deal more to bring corn.


« AnteriorContinuar »