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to examine in my Considerations of the Consequences of raising the Value of Money," &c. printed 1692. The author of that paper, it is manifest, was not ignorant of the price of silver, nor had a design to lessen its rate, but set down the highest price it then bore.
If then Mr. Lowndes's rule of justice, and care of the subject, be to regulate the rise of our milled money, it must not be raised above one-thirtieth part. If the advantages he promises, of making our money, by raising it one-fifth, "more commensurate to the general need thereof," be to be laid hold on, it is reasonable to raise it higher, "to make it yet more commensurate to the general need there is of it." Whichever of the two Mr. Lowndes will prefer, either reason of state or rule of justice, one-fifth must not be his measure of raising our present milled money. If the advantage of making our money more proportionate to our trade and other necessities be to govern its proposed raising, every one will cry out to Mr. Lowndes, If your way will do what you say, the raising it one-half will be much better than one-fifth, and therefore pray let an half-crown be raised to a crown, and six-pence to a shilling. If equity and the consideration of the subject's property ought to govern in the case, you must not raise our milled crown. to above five shillings and four-pence.
If it be here said to me, that I do then allow that our money may be raised one-thirtieth, i. e. that the crownpiece should be raised to five shillings and two-pence, and so proportionably of the other species of our coin; I answer, he that infers so, makes his inference a little too quick.
But let us for once allow the ordinary price of standard silver to be five shillings four-pence the ounce, to be paid for in weighty coin (for that must always be remembered, when we talk of the rate of bullion) and that the rate of bullion is the just measure of raising our money. This I say is no reason for the raising our milled crown now to five shillings four-pence, and recoining all our clipped money upon that foot; unless we intend, as soon as that is done, to new raise and coin it again. For, whilst our trade and affairs abroad re
quire the exportation of silver, and the exportation of our coined silver is prohibited, and made penal by our law, standard bullion will always be sold here for a little more than its weight of coined silver. So that, if we shall endeavour to equal our weighty coined silver to standard bullion, by raising it, whilst there is a necessity of the exportation of silver, we shall do no otherwise than a child, who runs to overtake and get up to the top of his shadow, which still advances at the same rate that he does. The privilege that bullion has to be exported freely, will give it a little advance in price above our coin, let the denomination of that be raised or fallen as you please, whilst there is need of its exportation, and the exportation of our coin is prohibited by law. But this advance will be but little, and will always keep within the bounds, which the risk and trouble of melting down our coin shall set to it, in the estimate of the exporter. He that will rather venture to throw an hundred pounds into his melting-pot, when nobody sees him, and reduce it to bullion, than give an hundred and five pounds for the same weight of the like bullion, will never give five shillings and five-pence of milled money for an ounce of standard bullion; nor buy at that price what he can have near five per cent. cheaper, without any risk, if he will not accuse himself. And I think it may be concluded, that very few, who have furnaces, and other conveniencies ready for melting silver, will give one per cent. for standard bullion, which is under five shillings and three-pence per ounce, who can, only for the trouble of melting it, reduce our coin to as good bullion.
The odds of the price in bullion to coin on this account (which is the only one, when the coin is kept to the standard) can never be the reason for raising our coin to preserve it from melting down: because this price above its weight is given for bullion, only to avoid melting down our coin; and so this difference of price between standard bullion and our coin can be no cause of its melting down.
These three reasons, which I have examined, contain the great advantages, which our author supposes the
proposed raising of our coin will produce; and therefore I have dwelt longer upon them. His remaining six reasons being of less moment, and offering most of them but some circumstantial conveniencies, as to the computation of our money, &c. I shall more briefly pass over. Only before I proceed to them, I shall here set down the different value of our money, collected from our author's history of the several changes of our coin since Edward the First's reign, quite down to this present time. A curious history indeed, for which I think myself, and the world, indebted to Mr. Lowndes's great learning in this sort of knowledge, and his great exactness in relating the particulars.
I shall remark only the quantity of silver was in a shilling, in each of those changes; that so the reader may at first sight, without farther trouble, compare the lessening or increase of the quantity of silver upon every change. For in propriety of speech, the adding to the quantity of silver in our coin, is the true raising of its value; and the diminishing the quantity of silver in it, is the sinking of its value; however they come to be transposed, and used in the quite contrary sense.
If my calculations, from the weight and fineness I find set down in Mr. Lowndes's extract out of the indentures of the mint, have not misled me, the quantity of silver to a grain, which was in a shilling in every change of our money, is set down in the following table:
And so it has remained from the 43d
Elizabeth to this day.
Mr. Lowndes having given us the fineness of the standard silver in every reign, and the number of pieces a pound troy was coined, into closes this history with words to this purpose, page 56, "By this deduction it doth evidently appear, that it hath been a policy constantly practised in the mints of England, to raise the value of the coin in its extrinsic denomination, from time to time, as any exigence or occasion required, and more especially to encourage the bringing of bullion into the realm to be coined." This, indeed, is roundly to conclude for his hypothesis. But I could wish, that from the histories of those times, wherein the several changes were made, he had showed us the exigencies and occasions that produced the raising of the coin, and what effects it had.
If I mistake not, Henry the Eighth's several raisings of our coin brought little increase of silver into England. As the several species of our coin lessened in their respective quantities of silver, so the treasure of the realm decreased too: and he, that found the kingdom rich, did not, as I remember, by all his raising our coin, leave it so.
Another thing, that (from this history) makes me suspect, that the raising the denomination was never found effectively to draw silver into England, is the lowering the denomination, or adding more silver to the species of our coin; as in Henry the Sixth's time, the shilling was increased from one hundred forty-two grains of
silver to one hundred seventy-six; and in the sixth of Edward the Sixth, in whose time raising the denomination seems to have been tried to the utmost, when a shilling was brought to twenty grains of silver. And the great alteration that was then quickly made on the other hand, from twenty to eighty grains at one leap, seems to show that this lessening the silver in our coin had proved prejudicial: for this is a greater change in sinking of the denomination in proportion, than ever was made at once in raising it; a shilling being made four times weightier in silver, the sixth, than it was in the fifth year of Edward the Sixth's reign.
Kingdoms are seldom found weary of the riches they have, or averse to the increase of their treasure. If therefore the raising the denomination did in reality bring silver into the realm, it cannot be thought that they would at any time sink the denomination, which, by the rule of contraries, should be at least suspected to drive or keep it out.
Since, therefore, we are not from matter of fact informed, what were the true motives that caused those several changes in the coin; may we not with reason suspect, that they were owing to that policy of the mint, set down by our author, p. 83, in these words, "That the proposed advance is agreeable to the policy that in past ages hath been practised, not only in our mint, but in the mints of all politic governments; namely, to raise the value of silver in the coin to promote the work of the mint?" As I remember, suitable to this policy of the mint, there was, some two years since, a complaint of a worthy gentleman, not ignorant of it, that the mill in the mint stood still; and therefore there was a proposal offered for bringing grist to the mill.
The business of money, as in all times, even in this our quick-sighted age, hath been thought a mystery: those employed in the mint must, by their places, be supposed to penetrate deepest into it. It is no impossible thing then to imagine, that it was not hard, in the ignorance of past ages, when money was little, and skill in the turns of trade less, for those versed in the busi