« AnteriorContinuar »
BOO K and Lisbon. But the consumption of Birming
ham alone, at the rate of fifty thousand pounds à year, is equal to the hundred-and-twentieth part of this annual importation at the rate of fix mil. lions 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 fo far short of this demand as somewhat to raise the price of those metals in the European market.
The quantity of brass and iron annually brought from the mine to the market is out of all proportion greater than that of gold and fil
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 fo? 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 preserv. ation. The precious metals, however, are not neceffarily immortal any more than they, but are liable too to be loft, wasted, and consumed in a great variety of
ways. The price of all metals, though liable to flow and gradual variations, varies less from year to year than that of almost any other part of the rude produce of land; and the price of the pre
cious metals is even less liable to sudden vari- C HA P. ations than that of the coarse ones. The dura
XI. bleness 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 fome part of the gold which was brought from it two or three thousand years ago. The different masses of corn which in different years muft fupply 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
little affected by any accidental difference in the produce of the iron mines of those two years; and the proportion betwen 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 metallic mines, therefore, varies, perhaps, still more from year to year than that of the greater part of corn-fields, those variations have not the same effect upon the price of the one fpecies of commodities, as upon that of the other.
years, will be
BO O K
Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of
Gold and Silver.
BEFORE the discovery of the mines of America, the value of fine gold to fine filver 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 fupposed to be worth from ten to twelve ounces of fine filver. 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 fupposed worth between fourteen and fifteen ounces of fine filver. Gold rose in its nominal value, or in the quantity of silver which was given for it. Both metals funk in their real value, or in the quantity of labour which they could purchase ; but filver funk 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 filver mines had, it seems, been proportionably still greater than that of the gold ones.
The great quantities of filver 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 fame 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 c H A P. gold to filver still continues as one to ten, or one to twelve. In Japan, it is said to be as one to eight.
The proportion between the quantities of gold and filver 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 fent annually to the East Indies, reduces, he fupposes, the quantities of those metals which re. main 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, muft neceffarily 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 filver.
But the ordinary proportion between the refpective values of two commodities is not necef. farily 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
It would be abfurd, 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.
The quantity of filver commonly in the mar. ket, it is probable, is much greater in propor. tion 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 com, monly be greater in proportion to the whole quantity of the dear one, than the value of a cer. tain quantity of the dear one, is to the value of an equal quantity of the cheap one. compare the precious metals with one another, filver 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 filver than of gold.
Let any man, who has a little of both, compare his own filver 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, befides,