« ForrigeFortsett »
BOO K therefore, equal to fix shillings and eight-pence
of the money of those times, and to near twenty
This statute is surely a better evidence of
In 1309, Ralph de Born, Prior of St. Auguftine's, Canterbury, gave a feast upon
his installation-day, of which William Thorn has preserved, not only the bill of fare, but the prices of many particulars. In that feast were consumed, ift, Fifty-three quarters of wheat, which cost nineteen pounds, or seven shillings and two-pence a quarter, equal to about one-and-twenty fhil. lings and fix-pence of our present money ; 2dly, Fifty-eight quarters of malt, which coft seventeen pounds ten shillings, or fix shillings a quarter, equal to about eighteen shillings of our present money ; 3dly, Twenty quarters of oats, which cost four pounds, or four shillings a quar
ter, equal to about twelve shillings of our present c H A P. money. The prices of malt and oats seem here to be higher than their ordinary proportion to the price of wheat.
These prices are not recorded on account of their extraordinary dearness or cheapness, but are mentioned accidentally as the prices actually paid for large quantities of grain consumed at a feast which was famous for its magnificence.
In 1262, being the gift of Henry III, was revived an ancient statute called, The Alize of Bread and Ale, which, the King says in the preamble, had been made in the times of his progenitors, sometime kings of England. It is probably, therefore, as old at least as the time of his grandfather Henry II., and may have been as old as the conquest. It regulates the price of bread according as the prices of wheat may happen to be, from one shilling to twenty shillings the quarter of the money of those times. But fta. tutes of this kind are generally presumed to provide with equal care for all deviations from the middle price, for those below it as well as for those above it. Ten shillings, therefore, containing fix ounces of silver, Tower-weight, and equal to about thirty shillings of our present money, must, upon this supposition, have been reckoned the middle price of the quarter of wheat when this statute was first enacted, and must have continued to be so in the 51st of Henry III. We cannot therefore be very wrong in fuppofing that the middle price was not less than one-third of the highest price at which this
BOO K statute regulates the price of bread, or than fix
shillings and eight-pence of the money of those times, containing four ounces of silver, Tower. weight.
From these different facts, therefore, we seem to have some reason to conclude, that about the middle of the fourteenth century, and for a con. fiderable time before, the average or ordinary price of the quarter of wheat was not suppofed to be less than four ounces of silver, Tower-weight.
From about the middle of the fourteenth to the beginning of the sixteenth century, what was reckoned the reafonable and moderate, that is, the ordinary or average price of wheat, seems to have funk gradually to about one-half of this price; fo as at last to have fallen to about two ounces of silver, Tower-weight, equal to about tén shillings of our present money. It continued to be estimated at this price till about 1570.
In the houshold book of Henry, the fifth Earl of Northumberland, drawn up in 1512, there are two different estimations of wheat. In one of them it is computed at fix shillings and eightpence the quarter, in the other at five fhillings and eight-pence only. In 1512, fix shillings and eight-pence contained only two ounces of silver, Tower-weight, and were equal to about ten shil. lings of our present money.
From the 25th of Edward III, to the begin. ning of the reign of Elizabeth, during the space of more than two hundred years, fix shillings and eight-pence, it appears from several different statutes, had continued to be considered as what
is called the moderate and reasonable, that is the CHA P. ordinary or average price of wheat. The quantity of filver, however, contained in that nominal sum was, during the course of this period, continually diminishing, in consequence of some alterations which were made in the coin. But the increase of the value of silver had, it seems, so far compensated the diminution of the quantity of it contained in the fame nominal fum, that the legislature did not think it worth while to attend to this circumstance.
Thus in 1436 it was enacted, that wheat might be exported without a licence when the price was fo low as fix shillings and eight-pence: And in 1463 it was enacted, that no wheat should be imported if the price was not above fix shillings and eight-pence the quarter. The legislature had imagined, that when the price was so low, there could be no inconveniency in exportation, but that when it rose higher, it became prudent to allow of importation. Six shillings and eightpence, therefore, containing about the fame quantity of filver as thirteen shillings and fourpence of our present money (one-third part less than the famé nominal fum contained in the time of Edward III.), had in those times been confidered as what is called the moderate and reason. able price of wheat.
In 1554, by the ift and 2d of Philip and Mary; and in 1558, by the ift of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was in the same manner prohibited, whenever the price of the quarter should exceed fix shillings and eight-pence,
BO O K which did not then contain two-penny worth
more silver than the fame nominal fum does at present. But it had foon been found that to restrain the exportation of wheat till the price was so very low, was, in reality, to prohibit it altogether. In 1562, therefore, by the 5th of Elizabeth, the exportation of wheat was allowed from certain ports whenever the price of the quarter should not exceed ten shillings, containing nearly the same quantity of silver as the like nominal sum does at present. This price had at this time, therefore, been considered as what is called the moderate and reasonable price of wheat. It agrees nearly with the estimation of the Northumberland book in 1512.
That in France the average price of grain was, in the fame manner, much lower in the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the fixteenth century, than in the two centuries preceding, has been observed both by Mr. Duprè de St. Maur, and by the elegant author of the Essay on the Police of Grain. Its price, during the fame period, had probably funk in the same manner through the greater part of Europe.
This rise in the value of silver, in proportion to that of corn, may either have been owing al. together to the increase of the demand for that metal, in consequence of increasing improve. ment and cultivation, the supply in the mean time continuing the same as before : Or, the demand continuing the same as before, it may have been owing altogether to the gradual diminution of the supply; the greater part of the mines