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BOOK portation is not continually increasing; which
in the present times, is not supposed to be the case.
If, 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 infenfibly rife, till the annual importation becoming again stationary, the annual consumption will gradually and insensibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can maintain.
Grounds of the Suspicion that the Value of Silver fill
continues to decrease.
HE 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, fo their value diminishes as their quantity increases, may, perhaps, 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 may confirm them ftill further in this opinion.
That that increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arises in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish their value, I have deavoured to show already. Gold and silver naturally resort to a
rich country, for the same reason that all sorts of C # A P. luxuries and curiofities 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 fuperiority ceases, they neceffarily cease to go thither.
If you except corn and such other vegetables as are raised altogether by human industry, that all other forts of rude produce, cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of the earth, &c. naturally grow dearer as the fociety advances in wealth and improvement, I have endeavoured to show already. Though such commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of silver than before, it will not from thence follow that filver 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 filver, but of the rise in their real price.
Different Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon three
different Sorts of rude Produce.
be divided into three classes. The first comprehends those which it is scarce in the
BOOK power of human industry to multiply at all. The
second, those which it can multiply in propor-
ure, it is impossible to accumulate togethe
the luxury which accompanies it increase, the C HA P, demand for these is likely to increase with them,
XI. 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
quan tity of such commodities, therefore, remaining the fame, or nearly the fame, while the competi. tion to purchafe them is continually increasing, their price may rise to any degree of extrava, gance, and seems not to be limited by any cer. tain boundary. If woodcocks should become so fashionable as to fell for twenty guineas a-piece, no effort of human induftry 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 filver in those times, but of the high value of such rarities and curiofities as human industry could not multiply at pleasure. The real value of filver was higher at Rome, for some time before and after the fall of the republic, than it is through the greater part of Europe at present. Three feftertii, equal to about sixpence sterling, was the price which the republic paid for the modius or peck of the tithe wheat of Sicily. 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
BO O K wheat amounted to, they were bound by capi
tulation to pay for the surplus at the rate of four sestertii, or eight-pence sterling, the peck; 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. Eightand-twenty shillings the quarter was, before the late years of scarcity, 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 filver, therefore, in those ancient times, must have been to its value in the present, as three to four inversely; that is, three ounces of filver would then have purchased the same quantity of labour and commodities which four ounces will do at present. When we read in Pliny, therefore, that Seius * bought a white nightingale, as a present for the Empress Agrippina, at the price of fix thousand feftertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our present money; and that Afinius Celert purchased a surmullet at the price of eight thoufand feftertii, equal to about fixty-fix pounds thirteen shillings and four-pence of our present money ; the extravagance of those prices, how much foever it may surprise us, is apt, notwithftanding, to appear to us about one-third less than it really was. Their real price, the quantity of labour and fubfiftence which was given away for them, was about one-third more than their nominal price is apt to express to us
+ Lib. ix. c. 174
* Lib. X. C. 296