« PreviousContinue »
ness and policy of the mint to persuade a prince, especially if money were scarce, that the fault was in the standard of the mint, and that the way to increase the plenty of money was to raise (a well-sounding word) the value of the coin. This could not but be willingly enough hearkened to; when, besides the hopes of drawing an increase of silver into the realm, it brought present gain, by the part which the king got of the money, which was hereupon all coined anew, and the mint officers lost nothing, since it promoted the work of the mint.
This opinion Mr. Lowndes himself gives sufficient grounds for in his book, particularly page 29, where we read these words: "Although the former debasements of the coins, by public authority, especially those in the reigns of king Henry the Eighth, and king Edward the Sixth, might be projected for the profit of the crown, and the projectors might measure that profit by the excessive quantities of alloy, that were mixed with the silver and the gold," (and let me add, or by the quantity of silver lessened in each specie, which is the same thing.) "And though this was enterprised by a prince, who could stretch his prerogative very far upon his people; and was done in times, when the nation had very little commerce, inland or foreign, to be injured or prejudiced thereby; yet experience presently showed, that the projectors were mistaken, and that it was absolutely necessary to have the base money reformed." This, at least, they were not mistaken in, that they brought work to the mint, and a part of the money coined to the crown for seniorage: in both which there was profit. Mr. Lowndes tells us, p. 45, "That Henry the Eighth had to the value of fifty shillings for every pound weight of gold coined." I have met with it somewhere, that formerly the king might take what he pleased for coinage. I know not too, but the flattering name of raising money might prevail then as it does now; and impose so far on them as to make them think the raising, i. e. diminishing the silver in their coin, would bring it into the realm, or stay it here, when they found it going out. For if we
may guess at the other by Henry the Eighth's raising, it was probably when, by reason of expense in foreign wars, or ill-managed trade, they found money begin to grow scarce.
The having the species of our coin one-fifth bigger, or one-fifth less than they are at present, would be neither good nor harm to England, if they had always Our standard has continued in weight and fineness, just as it is now, for very near this hundred years last past and those who think the denomination and size of our money have any influence on the state of our wealth, have no reason to change the present standard of our coin; since under that we have had a greater increase, and longer continuance of plenty of money, than perhaps any other country can show: I see no reason to think, that a little bigger or less size of the pieces coined is of any moment one way or the other. The species of money in any country, of whatsoever sizes, fit for coining, if their proportions to one another be suited to arithmetic and calculations, in whole numbers, and the ways of accounts in that country; if they are adapted to small payments, and carefully kept to their just weight and fineness, can have no harm in them. The harm comes by the change, which unreasonably and unjustly gives away and transfers men's properties, disorders trade, puzzles accounts, and needs a new arithmetic to cast up reckonings, and keep accounts in; besides a thousand other inconveniencies, not to mention the charge of recoining the money; for this may be depended on, that, if our money be raised as is proposed, it will enforce the recoining of all our money, both old and new, (except the new shillings) to avoid the terrible difficulty and confusion there will be in keeping accounts in pounds, shillings, and pence, (as they must be) when the species of our money are so ordered as not to answer those denominations in round numbers.
This consideration leads me to Mr. Lowndes's fifth and sixth reasons, p. 85, wherein he recommends the raising our money in the proportion proposed, for its
convenience, to our accounting by pounds, shillings, and pence; and for obviating perplexity among the common people, he proposes the present weighty crown to go at six shillings three-pence; and the new scepter, or unit, to be coined of the same weight, to go at the same rate; and half-crowns, half-scepters, or half-units, of the weight of the present half-crown, to go for two shillings seven-pence halfpenny: by no number of which pieces can there be made an even pound sterling, or any number of even shillings under a pound; but they always fall into fractions of pounds and shillings, as may be seen by the following table:
1 Half-crown, half-scepter, or half-unit piece
0 3 1
0 12 6
2 Crown pieces
5 Half-crown pieces
3 Crown pieces
7 Half-crown pieces
4 Crown pieces
0 15 7
0 18 9
1 1 101 150
The present shilling and new testoon going for fifteen-pence, no number of them make any number of even shillings; but five shillings, ten shillings, fifteen shillings, and twenty shillings; but in all the rest they always fall into fractions.
The like may be said of the present sixpences and future half testoons going for seven-pence halfpenny; the quarter testoons, which are to go for three-pence three-farthings; and the gross and groats, which are to go for fivepence; the half gross or groat, which is to go for two-pence halfpenny, and the prime, which is to go for a penny farthing: out of any tale of each of which species there can no just number of shillings be made, as I think, but five shillings, ten shillings, fifteen shillings, and twenty shillings; but they always fall into fractions. This new-intended shilling alone seems to be suited to our accounting in pounds, shillings, and pence. The great pieces, as scepters and half-scepters, which are made to serve for the payment of greater sums, and are for despatch in tale, will not
in tale fall into even pounds; and I fear it will puzzle a better arithmetician than most countrymen are, to tell, without pen and ink, how many of the lesser pieces (except the shillings) however combined, will make just sixteen or seventeen shillings; and I imagine there is not one countryman of three but may have it for his pains, if he can tell an hundred pounds made up of a promiscuous mixture of the species of this new raised money (excluding the shillings) in a day's time; and that which will help to confound him, and every body else, will be the old crowns, half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences, current for new numbers of pence; so that I take it for granted that if our coin be raised as is proposed, not only all our clipped, but all our weighty and milled money, must of necessity be recoined too; if you would not have trade disturbed, and people more diseased with new money, which they cannot tell, nór keep accounts in, than with light and clipped money, which they are cheated with; and what a charge the new coining of all our money will be to the nation I have computed in another place*. That I think is of some consideration in our present circumstances, though the confusion that this new raised money, I fear, is like to introduce, and the want of money and stop of trade, when the clipped is called in, and the weighty is to be recoined, be of much greater.
His fourth, eighth, and ninth reasons, p. 84 and 86, are taken from the saving our present milled money from being cut and recoined. The end I confess to be good it is very reasonable that so much excellent coin, as good as ever was in the world, should not be destroyed. But there is, I think, a surer and easier way to preserve it than what Mr. Lowndes proposes. It is past doubt, it will be in no danger of recoining, if our money be kept upon the present foot: but if it be raised, as Mr. Lowndes proposes, all the present milled money will be in danger, and the difficulty of counting it, upon
* Vid. Short Observations on a Paper, entitled, For encouraging Coining, &c. p. 117 of this vol.
the new proposed foot, will enforce it to be recoined into new pieces of crowns, half-crowns, shillings, and six-pences, that may pass for the same number of pence the present do, viz. 60, 30, 12, and 6, as I have above shown. He says in his fourth reason, that "if pieces having the same bigness should have different values, it might be difficult for the common people (especially those not skilled in arithmetic) to compute how many of one kind will be equal to the sum of another." Such difficulties and confusion in counting money, I agree with him, ought carefully to be avoided; and therefore, since if pieces having the same bigness and stamp, which the people are acquainted with, shall have new values different from those which people are accustomed to; and these new values shall in numbers of pence not answer our way of accounting by pounds and shillings; " It will be difficult for the common people (especially those not skilled in arithmetic) to compute how many of any one kind will make any sum they are to pay or receive;" especially when the numbers of any one kind of pieces will be brought into so few even sums of pounds and shillings. And thus Mr. Lowndes's argument here turns upon himself, and is against raising our coin to the value proposed by him, from the confusion it will produce.
His 8th reason, p. 86, we have in these words: "It is difficult to conceive how any design of amending the clipped money can be compassed, without raising the value of the silver remaining in them, because of the great deficiency of the silver clipped away, which (upon recoining) must necessarily be defrayed or borne one way or other."
It is no difficulty to conceive that clipped money, being not lawful money, should be prohibited to pass for more than its weight. Next, it is no difficulty to conceive that clipped money, passing for no more than its weight, and so being in the state of standard bullion, which cannot be exported, should be brought to the mint, and there exchanged for weighty money. By this way, "it is no difficulty to conceive how the amending the clipped money may be compassed, be