« ForrigeFortsett »
the price of the quarter of eight bushels comes Chap. out to have been il. \6s. io\d. And from this sum, neglecting likewise the fraction, and deducting a ninth, or 45. i?d., 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 il. 12s. 84^, or about six ounces and one-third of an ounce of silver.
From 1621 to 1636, both inclusive, the ave* rage price of the fame measure of the best wheat at the same market, appears, from the fame accounts, to have been il. 10s.; from which, making the like deductions as in the foregoing cafe, the average price of the quarter of eight bushels of middle wheat comes out to have been 11. 195. 6<f., or about seven ounces and twothirds of an ounce of silver.
Between 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 completed, and the value of that metal seems never to have funk 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. . From 1637 to 1700, both inclusive, being the sixty-sour last years of the last century, the avei. rage
BOOK rage price of the quarter of nine bushels of the *• best wheat at Windsor market, appears, from the fame accounts, to have been <il. us. o±d.; which is only is. o\d. 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.
The fust 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 fame accounts, to have been 4/. 5s. and in 1649 to have been 4/. the quarter of nine bushels. The ex1 cess of those two years above 2I. 10s. (the ave
rage price of the sixteen years preceding 1637) is 3/. 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.
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 vears, have occasioned a greater abundance, and consequently 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 such.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 occasioned some augmentation in . 2 the Book the nominal sum. This event was the great de. _j basement 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; at'which time, as we may learn from Mr. Lowndes, the current silver coin was, at an average, near sive-and-twenty per centbelow its standard value. 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 debased by clipping and wearing, than when near to its standard value.
In 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, 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 dipt silver. Before the late re-coinage of the gold, the price of silver bullion was seldom higher than sive millings and seven-pence an ounce, which is but sive-pence above the mint price. But in 1695, the common price of silver bullion was six fbil
- - lings lings and sive-pence an ounce*, which is sifteen- CHAPpence above the mint price. Even before the , TMl._f late re-coinage 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 sive-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 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 bdunty 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 examine hereafter, 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.