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BOO K try much richer than any part of Europe, the
value of the precious metals is much higher than in any part of Europe. As the wealth of Europe, indeed, has increased greatly since the discovery of the mines of America, fo the value of gold and filver has gradually diminished. This diminution of their value, however, has not been owing to the increase of the real wealth of Europe, of the annual produce of its land and labour, but to the accidental discovery of more abundant mines than any that were known before. The increase of the quantity of gold and silver in Europe, and the increase of its manufactures and agriculture, are two events which, though they have happened nearly about the same time, yet have arisen from very different causes, and have scarce any natural connection with one another. The one has arisen from a mere accident, in which neither prudence nor policy either had or could have any share: The other from the fall of the feudal system, and from the establishment of a government which afforded to industry the only encouragement which it requires, fome tolerable security that it shall enjoy the fruits of its own labour. Poland, where the feudal system still continues to take place, is at this day as beggarly a country as it was before the discovery of America. The money price of corn, however, has risen ; the real value of the precious metals has fallen in Poland, in the same manner as in other parts of Europe. Their quantity, therefore, must have increased there as in other places, and nearly in
the same proportion to the annual produce of its c HA P. land and labour. This increase of the quantity of those metals, however, has not, it seems, increased that annual produce, has neither improved the manufactures and agriculture of the country, nor mended the circumstances of its inhabitants. Spain and Portugal, the countries which possess the mines, are, after Poland, perhaps, the two most beggarly countries in Europe. The value of the precious metals, however, must be lower in Spain and Portugal than in any other part of Europe; as they come from those countries to all other parts of Europe, loaded, not only with a freight and an insurance, but with the expence of smuggling, their exportation being either prohibited, or subjected to a duty. In proportion to the annual produce of the land and labour, therefore, their quantity must be greater in those countries than in any other part of Europe: Those countries, however, are poorer than the greater part of Europe. Though the feudal fyftem has been abolished in Spain and Portugal, it has not been succeeded by a much better.
As the low value of gold and silver, therefore, is no proof of the wealth and flourishing state of the country where it takes place; fo neither is their high value, or the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, any proof of its poverty and barbarism.
But though the low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, be no proof of the poverty or barbarisin of the times,
BOO K the low money price of fome particular forts of
goods, such as cattle, poultry, game of all kinds, &c. in proportion to that of corn, is a most decisive one.
It clearly demonstrates, first, their great abundance in proportion to that of corn, and consequently the great extent of the land which they occupied in proportion to what was occupied by corn; and, secondly, the low value of this land in proportion to that of corn land, and consequently the uncultivated and unimproved state of the far greater part of the lands of the country. It clearly demonstrates that the stock and population of the country did not bear the same proportion to the extent of its territory, which they commonly do in civilized countries, and that society was at that time, and in that country, but in its infancy. From the high or low money price either of goods in general, or of corn in particular, we can infer only that the mines which at that time happened to supply the commercial world with gold and silver, were fertile or barren, not that the country was rich or poor. But from the high or low money price of some sorts of goods in proportion to that of others, we can infer, with a degree of probability that approaches almost to certainty, that it was rich or poor, that the greater part of its lands were improved or unimproved, and that it was either in a more or less barbarous state, or in a more or less civilized one.
Any rise in the money price of goods which proceeded altogether from the degradation of the value of silver, would affect all sorts of goods
equally, and raise their price universally a third, c H A.P. or a fourth, or a fifth part higher, according as filver happened to lose a third, or a fourth, or a fifth part of its former value.
of its former value. But the rise in the price of provisions, which has been the subject of so much reasoning and conversation, does not affect all forts of provisions equally. Taking the course of the present century at an average, the price of corn, it is acknowledged, even by those who account for this rise by the degradation of the value of silver, has risen much less than that of some other forts of provisions. The rise in the price of those other forts of provisions, therefore, cannot be owing altogether to the degradation of the value of filver. Some other causes must be taken into the account, and those which have been above afligned, will, perhaps, without having recourse to the supposed degra. dation of the value of filver, fufficiently explain this rise in those particular forts of provi. fions of which the price has actually risen in proportion to that of corn.
As to the price of corn itself, it has, during the fixty-four first years of the present century, and before the late extraordinary course of bad seasons, been somewhat lower than it was during the fixty-four last years of the preceding century. This fact is attested, not only by the accounts of Windfor market, but by the public fiars of all the different counties of Scotland, and by the accounts of several different markets in France, which have been collected with great diligence and fidelity by Mr. Messance, and by Mr. Duprè
BOO K de St. Maur. The evidence is more complete
than could well have been expected in a matter which is naturally so very difficult to be ascer. tained.
As to the high price of corn during these last ten or twelve years, it can be fufficiently accounted for from the badness of the seasons, without fuppofing any degradation in the value of silver.
The opinion, therefore, that filver is continually finking in its value, seems not to be founded upon any good observations, either upon the prices of corn, or upon those of other provisions.
The fame quantity of silver, it may, perhaps, be said, will in the present times, even accord. ing to the account which has been here given, purchase a much smaller quantity of several forts of provisions than it would have done during some part of the last century; and to ascertain whether this change be owing to a rise in the value of those goods, or to a fall in the value of filver, is only to establish a vain and useless diftinction, which can be of no sort of service to the man who has only a certain quantity of filver to go to market with, or a certain fixed revenue
I certainly do not pretend that the knowledge of this distinction will enable him to buy cheaper. It may not, however, upon that account be altogether useless.
It may be of some use to the public by affording an easy proof of the prosperous condition of the country. If the rise in the price of some