« ForrigeFortsett »
be the common instrument of commerce and ex. CHA P. changes in Abyssinia ; a species of shells in fome parts of the coast of India ; dried cod at New. foundland; tobacco in Virginia ; fugar in some of our West India colonies ; hides or dressed leather in some other countries; and there is at this day a village in Scotland where it is not uncommon, I am told, for a workman to carry nails instead of money to the baker's shop or the ale house.
In all countries, however, men seem at last to } have been determined by irresistible reasons to give the preference, for this employment, to metals above every other commodity. Metals can not only be kept with as little loss as any other commodity, scarce any thing being less perishable than they are, but they can likewise, without any loss, be divided into any number of parts, as by fusion those parts can easily be reunited again ; a quality which no other equally durable commodities possess, and which more than any other quality renders them fit to be the inftruments of commerce and circulation. The man who wanted to buy falt, for example, and had nothing but cattle to give in exchange for it, must have been obliged to buy salt to the value of a whole ox, or a whole sheep, at a time. He could feldom buy less than this, because what he was to give for it could feldom be divided without loss; and if he had a mind to buy more, he muft, for the same reasons, have been obliged to buy double or triple the quantity, the value, to wit, of two or three oxen, or
BOO K of two or three sheep. If, on the contrary, in
stead of sheep or oxen, he had metals to give in exchange for it, he could easily proportion the quantity of the metal to the precise quantity of the commodity which he had immediate occafion for.
Different metals have been made use of by different nations for this purpose. Iron was the common instrument of commerce among the antient Spartans; copper among the antient Romans; and gold and silver among all rich and commercial nations.
Those metals feem originally to have been made use of for this purpose in rude bars, without any stamp or coinage. Thus we are told by Pliny *, upon the authority of Timæus, an antient historian, that, till the time of Servius Tul. lius, the Romans had no coined money, but made use of unftamped bars of copper, to purchase whatever they had occafion for. These rude bars, therefore, performed at this time the function of money. .. The use of metals in this rude state was at. --tended with two very considerable inconveniencies; first, with the trouble of weighing; and, secondly, with that of affaying them. In the precious metals, where a small difference in the quantity makes a great difference in the value, even the business of weighing, with proper exactness, requires at least very accurate weights and fcales. The weighing of gold in particular is an
operation of some nicety. In the coarser metals, C HA P. indeed, where a small error would be of little confequence, less accuracy would, no doubt, be necessary. Yet we should find it exceflively 3 troublesome, if every time a poor man had occafion either to buy or sell a farthing's worth of goods, he was obliged to weigh the farthing. The operation of aslaying is still more difficult, ftill more tedious, and, unless a part of the metal is fairly melted in the crucible, with proper diffolvents, any conclusion that can be drawn from it, is extremely uncertain. Before the institution of coined money, however, unless they went through this tedious and difficult operation, people must always have been liable to the groffest frauds and impositions, and instead of a pound weight of pure silver, or pure copper, might receive in exchange for their goods, an adulterated composition of the coarseft and cheapest materials, which had, however, in their outward appearance, been made to resemble those metals. To prevent such abuses, to facilitate exchanges, and thereby to en. courage all sorts of industry and commerce, it has been found necessary, in all countries that have made any considerable advances towards improvement, to affix a public stamp upon certain quantities of fuch particular metals, as were in those countries commonly made use of to purchase goods. Hence the origin of coined money, and of those public offices called mints; inftitutions exactly of the fame nature with those of the aulnagers and stampmasters of woollen D 3
BOOK and linen cloth. All of them are equally meant
to ascertain, by means of a public stamp, the quantity and uniform goodness of those different commodities when brought to market.
The first public stamps of this kind that were affixed to the current metals, seem in to have been intended to ascertain, what it was both most difficult and most important to ascertain, the goodness or fineness of the metal, and to have resembled the sterling mark which is at present affixed to plate and bars of silver, or the Spanish mark which is sometimes affixed to ingots of gold, and which being struck only upon one side of the piece, and not covering the whole surface, ascertains the fineness, but not the weight of the metal. Abraham weighs to Ephron the four hundred shekels of silver which he had agreed to pay for the field of Machpelah. They are said however to be the current money of the merchant, and yet are received by weight and not by tale, in the fame manner as ingots of gold and bars of silver are at present. The revenues of the antient Saxon kings of England are said to have been paid, not in money but in kind, that is, in victuals and provisions of all forts. William the Conqueror introduced the custom of paying them in money. This money, however, was, for a long time, received at the exchequer, by weight and not by tale.
The inconveniency and difficulty of weighing those metals with exactness gave occasion to the inftitution of coins, of which the stamp, covering entirely both sides of the piece and sometimes
the edges too, was supposed to ascertain not c H A P. only the fineness, but the weight of the metal. Such coins, therefore, were received by tale as at present, without the trouble of weighing.
The denominations of those coins seem ori. ginally to have expressed the weight or quantity of metal contained in them. In the time of Servius Tullius, who first coined money at Rome, the Roman As or Pondo contained a Roman pound of good copper. It was divided in the same manner as our Troyes pound, into twelve ounces, each of which contained a real ounce of good copper. The English pound sterling in the time of Edward I. contained a pound, Tower weight, of silver of a known fineness. The Tower pound seems to have been something more than the Roman pound, and something less than the Troyes pound. This last was not introduced into the mint of England till the 18th of Henry VIII, The French livre contained in the time of Charlemagne a pound, Troyes weight, of filver of a known fineness. The fair of Troyes in Champaign was at that time frequented by all the nations of Europe, and the weights and measures of so famous a market were generally known and esteemed. The Scots money pound contained, from the time of Alexander the First to that of Robert Bruce, a pound of filver of the same weight and fineness with the English pound sterling. English, French, and Scots pennies too, contained all of them originally a real pennyweight of filver, the twentieth part of an ounce, and