Page images
PDF
EPUB

ard of the several mints, seems to have been introduced by the skill of men employed in coining, to keep that art (as all trades are called) a mystery, rather than for any use or necessity there was of such broken numbers. But, be that as it will, the standard in our mint being now settled by authority, and established by custom, known at home and abroad, and the rules and methods of assaying suited to it, and all the wrought plate, as well as coin of England, being made by that measure, it is of great concernment that it should remain invariable.

But to the question, " What need is there of any mixture of baser metal with silver in money or plate ?" I answer there is great reason for it; for,

1. Copper mixed with silver makes it harder, and so wears and wastes less in use than if it were fine silver. 2. It melts easier. 3. Silver, as it is drawn and melted from the mine, being seldom perfectly fine, it would be a great charge by refining to separate all the baser metals from it, and reduce it to perfectly unmixed silver.

The use of coined silver or money is, that every man in the country, where it is current by public authority, may, without the trouble of refining, assaying, or weighing, be assured what quantity of silver he gives, receives, or contracts for, under such and such denominations.

If this security goes not along with the public stamp, coining is labour to no purpose, and puts no difference between coined money and uncoined bullion. This is so obvious, that I think no government, where money is coined, ever overlooks it; and therefore the laws every where, when the quantity of silver has been lessened in any piece carrying the public stamp, by clipping, washing, rounding, &c. have taken off the authority of the public stamp, and declared it not to be lawful money. This is known to be so in England, and every one may not only refuse any money bearing the public stamp, if it be clipped, or any ways robbed of the due weight of its silver, but he that offers it in payment is liable to indictment, fine, and imprisonment.

[ocr errors]

From whence we may see, that the use and end of the public stamp is only to be a guard and voucher of the quantity of silver which men contract for; and the injury done to the public faith, in this point, is that which in clipping and false coining heightens the robbery into treason.

Men in their bargains contract not for denominations or sounds, but for the intrinsic value, which is the

quantity of silver, by public authority, warranted to be in pieces of such denominations; and it is by having a greater quantity of silver, that men thrive and grow richer, and not by having a greater number of denominations; which, when they come to have need of their money, will prove but empty sounds, if they do not carry with them the real quantity of silver expected.

The standard once settled by public authority, the quantity of silver established under the several denominations (I humbly conceive) should not be altered till there were an absolute necessity shown of such a change, which I think can never be.

The reason why it should not be changed is this; because the public authority is guarantee for the performance of all legal contracts. But men are absolved from, the performance of their legal contracts, if the quantity of silver under settled and legal denominations be al-, tered; as is evident, if borrowing 1001. or 400 ounces of silver, to repay the same quantity of silver (for that is understood by the same sum, and so the law warrants it) or taking a lease of lands for years to come, at the like rent of 1001. they shall pay both the one and the other, in money coined under the same denominations, with one-fifth less silver in it than at the time of the bargain; the landlord here and creditor are each defrauded of twenty per cent. of what they contracted for, and is their due. And I ask, how much juster it would be thus to dissolve the contracts they had made than to make a law, that from henceforth all landlords and creditors should be paid their past debts, and the rents for leases already made, in clipped money, twenty per cent. lighter than it should be ? Both ways they lose twenty per cent. of their due, and with equal justice.

The case would be the same and legal contracts be avoided, if the standard should be altered, on the other side, and each species of our coin be made one-fifth heavier; for then he that had borrowed, or contracted for any sum, could not be discharged, by paying the quantity he agreed for, but be liable to be forced to pay twenty per cent. more than he bargained for, that is, more than he ought.

On the other side: Whether the creditor be forced to receive less, or the debtor be forced to pay more than his contract, the damage and injury is the same, whenever a man is defrauded of his due; and whether this will not be a public failure of justice thus arbitrarily to give one man's right and possession to another, without any fault on the suffering man's side, and without any the least advantage to the public, I shall leave to be considered.

Raising of coin is but a specious word to deceive the ụnwary. It only gives the usual denomination of a greater quantity of silver to a less, (v. g. calling four grains of silver a penny to-day, when five grains of silver made a penny yesterday) but adds no worth or real yalue to the silver coin, to make amends for its want of silver. That is impossible to be done; for it is only the quantity of silver in it that is, and eternally will be, the measure of its value. And to convince any one of this, I ask, whether he, that is forced to receive but 320 ounces of silver under the denomination of 1001. (for 400 ounces of silver which he lent under the like denomination of 1001.) will think these 320 ounces of silver, however denominated, worth those 400 ounces he lent? If any one can be supposed so silly, he need but go to the next market, or shop, to be convinced, that men value not money by the denomination, but by the quantity of silver there is in it. One may as rationally hope to lengthen a foot, by dividing it into fifteen parts, instead of twelve, and calling them. inches, as to increase the value of the silver, that is in a shilling, by dividing it into fifteen parts instead of twelve, and calling them pence. This is all

VOL. V.

L

that is done, when a shilling is raised from twelve +

fifteen pence.

Clipping of money is raising it without public a.thority; the same denomination remaining to the piece, that hath now less silver in it than it had before.

Altering the standard, by coining pieces under the same denomination with less silver in them than they formerly had, is doing the same thing by public authority. The only odds is, that by clipping, the loss is not forced on any one, (for nobody is obliged to receive clipped money); by altering the standard, it is.

Altering the standard, by raising the money, will not get to the public, or bring to the mint to be coined, one ounce of silver : but will defraud the king, the church, the universities and hospitals, &c. of so much of their settled revenue as the money is raised, v... twenty per cent. if the money (as is proposed) be raised one-fifth. It will weaken, if not totally destroy, the public faith, when all that have trusted the public, and assisted our present necessities, upon acts of parliament, in the million lottery, bank act, and other loans, shall be defrauded of twenty per cent. of what those acts of parliament were security for. And to conclude, this raising our money will defraud all private men of twenty per cent. in all their debts and settled revenues.

Clipping, by Englishmen, is robbing the honest man who receives clipped money, and transferring the silver, i. e. the value is pared off from it, into the clipper's pocket. Clipping by foreigners is robbing England itself; and thus the Spaniards lately robbed Portugal of a great part of its treasure, or commodities, (which is the same thing) by importing upon them clipped money of the Portugal stamp.

Clipping, and clipped money, have, besides this robbery of the public, other great inconveniencies : as the disordering of trade, raising foreign exchange, and a general disturbance, which every one feels thereby in his private affairs.

[ocr errors]

; is so gainful and so secret a robbery, that pena..

annot restrain it, as we see by experience. Nothing, I humbly conceive, can put a stop to clipping, now it is grown so universal, and men become so skilful in it, but making it unprofitable.

Nothing can make clipping unprofitable, but making all light money go only for its weight. This stops clipping in a moment, brings out all the milled and weighty money, deprives us not of any part of our clipped money for the use of trade, and brings it orderly, and by degrees, and without force, into the mint to be recoined.

If clipped money be called in all at once, and stopped from passing by weight, I fear it will stop trade, put our affairs all at a stand, and introduce confusion. Whereas, if it be permitted to pass by its weight, till it can by degrees be coined, (the stamp securing its fineness, as well then as now, and the scales determining its weight) it will serve for paying of great sums as commodiously almost as weighty money, and the weighty money, being then brought out, will serve for the market trade, and less payments, and also to weigh the clipped money by.

On the other side, if clipped money be allowed to pass

current by tale, till it be all recoined, one of these two effects will apparently follow: either that we shall want money for trade, as the clipped money decreases, by being coined into weighty; (for very few, if any body, who get weighty money into their hands, will part with it, whilst clipped money, not of half the value, is current) or if they do, the coiners and clippers will pick it up, and new coin and clip it, whereby clipped money will be increased ; so that, by this way, either money will be wanting to trade, or clipped money continued. If clipped money be stopped all at once, there is immediately a stop of trade. If it be permitted to pass in tale, as if it were lawful, weighty money, whilst it is recoining, and till all be recoined, that way also there will be an end of trade, or no end of clipped money. But, if it be made to pass for its weight, till it be all recoined, both these evils are avoided, and the

« PreviousContinue »