Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

XI.

means the only high prices which seem to have c H A P. been occasioned by the civil wars.

The second event was the bounty upon the exportation of corn, granted in 1688. The bounty, it has been thought by many people, by encouraging tillage, may, in a long course of years, have occafioned a greater abundance, and confequently a greater cheapness of corn in the home-market, than what would otherwise have taken place there. How far the bounty could produce this effect at any time, I shall examine hereafter; I shall only observe at present, that between 1688 and 1700, it had not time to produce any

fuch 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.

There 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 occafioned fome augmentation in

the

BOO K the nominal fum. This event was the great deI.

basement of the filver coin, by clipping and wearing. This evil had begun in the reign of Charles II. and had gone on continually increafing till 1695; at which time, as we may learn from Mr. Lowndes, the current filver coin was, at an average, near five-and-twenty per cent. below its standard value. But the nominal fum 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 fum, therefore, is necessarily higher when the coin is much debased by clipping and wearing, than when near to its standard value.

In the course of the present century, the filver 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-coinagé, the gold coin was a good deal defaced too, it was lefs fo than the filver. In 1695, on the contrary,

the value of the silver coin was not kept up by the gold coin; a guinea then commonly ex. changing for thirty shillings of the worn and clipt filver. Before the late re-coinage of the gold, the price of filver bullion was feldom higher than five shillings and seven-pence an ounce, which is þut five-pence above the mint price. But in 1695, the common price of filver bullion was fix thil

XI.

lings and five-pence an ounce*, which is fifteen- CHAP. pence above the mint price. Even before the late re-coinage of the gold, therefore, the coin, gold and silver together, when compared with filver 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 cena tury, that is, immediately after the great re. coinage 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 public 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 may, upon the principles of a system which I shall explain and ex. amine hereafter, be supposed to have done fome. thing 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.

* Lowndes's Essay on the Silver Coin, p. 68.

In

VOL. II.

I..

B.00 K In the fixty-four 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 al. os. 6 d., which is about ten shillings and fixpence, or more than five-and-twenty per cent. cheaper than it had been during the fixty-four last years of the last century; and about nine shillings and fixpence cheaper than it had been during the fixteen 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 twentyfix 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 fixty-four first years of the present century, comes out to have been about thirty-two shillings the quarter of eight bushels.

The value of silver, therefore, feems to have rifen fomewhat 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.

In 1687, the price of the quarter of nine bushels of the best wheat at Windfor market was il.

58. 2d. the lowest price at which it had ever been from 1595.

In 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

XI.

moderate plenty to be to the grower 38. 6d. the CH A P. bushel, or eight-and-twenty thillings the quarter. The grower's price I understand to be the fame with what is fometimes 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 eightand-twenty shillings the quarter to be at that time the ordinary contract price in years of mo, derate plenty. Before the scarcity occafioned by the late extraordinary course of bad seasons, it was,

I have been assured, the ordinary contract price in all common years.

In 1688 was granted the parliamentary bounty upon the exportation of corn.

The country gentlemen, who then composed a still greater proportion of the legislature than they do at prefent, 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 fold in the times of Charles I. and lI. It was to take place, therefore, till wheat was so high as forty-eight shillings the quarter; that is twenty shillings, or {ths 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

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »