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BOOK to the family in whose favour it is reserved, that 1.
it should not consist in a particular sum of money. Its value would in this case be liable to variations of two different kinds; first, to those which arise from the different quantities of gold and filver which are contained at different times in coin of the fame denomination; and, fecondly, to those which arise from the different values of equal quantities of gold and silver at different times.
Princes and fovereign states have frequently fancied that they had a temporary interest to diminish the quantity of pure metal contained in their coins; but they seldom have fancied that they had any to augment it. The quantity of metal contained in the coins, I believe of all nations, has, accordingly, been almost continually diminishing, and hardly ever augmenting. Such variations therefore tend-almost always to diminish the value of a money rent.
The discovery of the mines of America dimi. nished the value of gold and silver in Europe. This diminution, it is commonly supposed, though I apprehend without any certain proof, is still going on gradually, and is likely to continue to do fo for a long time. Upon this supposition, therefore, such variations are more likely to dimi. nish, than to augment the value of a money rent, even though it should be stipulated to be paid, not in such a quantity of coined money of such a denomination (in so many pounds sterling, for example), but in so many ounces either of pure filver, or of filver of a certain standard.
The rents which have been reserved in corn C HA P.
V. have preserved their value much better than those which have been reserved in money, even where the denomination of the coin has not been altered. By the 18th of Elizabeth it was enacted, That a third of the rent of all college leases should be reserved in corn, to be paid, either in kind, or according to the current prices at the nearest public market. The money arising from this corn rent, though originally but a third of the whole, is in the present times, according to Doctor Blackstone, commonly near double of what arises from the other two-thirds. The old money rents of colleges must, according to this account, have sunk almost to a fourth part of their ancient value; or are worth little more than a fourth part of the corn which they were formerly worth.
But since the reign of Philip and Mary the denomination of the English coin has undergone little or no alteration, and the same number of pounds, shillings and pence have contained very nearly the same quantity of pure filver. This degradation, therefore, in the value of the money rents of colleges, has arisen altogether from the degradation in the value of filver
When the degradation in the value of filver is combined with the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the coin of the same denomination, the loss is frequently still greater. In Scotland, where the denomination of the coin has undergone much greater alterations than it ever did in England, and in France, where it has
BOO K undergone still greater than it ever did in Scot.
land, some ancient rents, originally of confiderable value, have in this manner been reduced almost to nothing.
Equal quantities of labour will at diftant times be purchased more nearly with equal quantities of corn, the fubfiftence of the labourer, than with equal quantities of gold and silver, or perhaps of any other commodity. Equal quantities of corn, therefore, will, at distant times, be more nearly of the same real value, or enable the poffeffor to purchase or command more nearly the same quantity of the labour of other people. They will do this, I say, more nearly than equal quantities of almost any other commodity; for even equal quantities of corn will not do it exactly. The fubsistence of the labourer, or the real price of labour, as I shall endeavour to show hereafter, is very different upon different occafions; more liberal in a fociety advancing to opulence, than in one that is standing still ; and in one that is standing still, than in one that is going backwards. Every other commodity, however, will at any particular time purchase a greater or smaller quantity of labour in proportion to the quantity of fubfift: ence which it can purchase at that time. A rent therefore reserved in corn is liable only to the variations in the quantity of labour which a certain quantity of corn can purchase. But a rent referved in any other commodity is liable, not only to the variations in the quantity of labour which any particular quantity of corn can
purchase, but to the variations in the quantity of c HA P. corn which can be purchased by any particular quantity of that commodity.
Though the real value of a corn rent, it is to be observed however, varies much less from cen. tury to century than that of a money rent, it varies much more from year to year.
The money price of labour, as I shall endeavour to show hereafter, does not fluctuate from year to year with the money price of corn, but seems to be every where accommodated, not to the temporary or occasional, but to the average or ordinary price of that neceffary of life. The average or ordinary price of corn again is regulated, as I shall likewise endeavour to show hereafter, by the value of filver, by the richness or barrenness of the mines which supply the market with that metal, or by the quantity of labour which must be employed, and consequently of corn which muft be consumed, in order to bring any particular quantity of filver from the mine to the market. But the value of silver, though it sometimes varies greatly from century to century, feldom varies much from year to year, but frequently continues the same, or very nearly the fame, for half a century or a century together. The ordinary or average money price of corn, therefore, may, during so long a period, continue the same or very nearly the same too, and along with it the money price of labour, provided, at least, the society continues, in other respects, in the same or nearly in the same condition. In the mean time the temporary and
BOO K occasional price of corn may frequently be dou.
ble, one year, of what it had been the year before, or fluctuate, for example, from five and twenty to fifty shillings the quarter. But when corn is at the latter price, not only the nominal, but the real value of a corn rent will be double of what it is when at the former, or will command double the quantity either of labour or of the greater part of other commodities; the money price of labour, and along with it that of most other things, continuing the same during all these fluctuations.
Labour, therefore, it appears evidently, is the only univerfal, as well as the only accurate measure of value, or the only standard by which we can compare the values of different commodities at all times and at all places. We cannot estimate, it is allowed, the real value of different commodities from century to century by the quantities of silver which were given for them, We cannot estimate it from year to year by the quantities of corn, By the quantities of labour we can, with the greatest accuracy, estimate it both from century to century and from year
to year. From'century to century, corn is a better measure than silver, because, from century to century, equal quantities of corn will command the same quantity of labour more nearly than equal quantities of silver. From year to year, on the contrary, silver is a better measure than corn, because equal quantities of it will more nearly command the fame quantity of labour,