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other. Gold and silver have, in almost all ages
and parts of the world (where money was used) generally been thought the fittest materials to make it of. But there being a great disproportion in the plenty of these metals in the world, one has always been valued much higher than the other; so that one ounce of gold has exchanged for several ounces of silver: as at present, our guinea passing for 21s. 6d. in silver, gold is now about fifteen and a half times more worth than silver: there being about fifteen and a half times more silver in 21s. 6d. than there is gold in a guinea. This being now the market rate of gold to silver; if by an established law the rate of guineas should be set higher, (as to 22s. 6d.) they would be raised indeed, but to the loss of the kingdom. For by this law, gold being raised five per cent. above its natural true
value, foreigners would find it worth while to send their gold hither, and so fetch away our
silver at five per cent. profit, and so much loss to us. For when so much gold as would purchase but 100 ounces of silver any where else will in England purchase the merchant 105 ounces, what shall hinder him from bringing his gold to so good a market; and either selling it at the mint, where it will yield so much, or having it coined into guineas ? And then (going to market with his guineas) he may buy our commodities at the advantage of five per cent. in the very sort of his money; or change them into silver, and
away with him. On the other side, if by a law you would raise your silver money, and make four crowns, or 20s. in silver, equal to a guinea, at which rate I suppose it was first coined, so that by your law a guinea should pass but for 20s., the same inconveniency would follow. For then strangers would bring in silver and carry away your gold, which was to be had here at a lower rate than any
where else. If you say, that this inconvenience is not to be feared; for that as soon as people found that gold began to grow scarce, or that it was more worth than the law set upon it, they would not then part with it at the statute rate, as we see the broad pieces that were coined in
king James the First's time for 20s. nobody will now part with under 23s. or more, according to the market value; this I grant is true, and it does plainly confess the foolishness of making a law, which cannot produce the effect it is made for: as indeed it will not, when you would raise the price of silver, in respect of gold, above its natural market value : for then, as we see in our gold, the price of it will raise itself. But, on the other side, if you should by a law set the value of gold above its par; then people would be bound to receive it at that high rate, and so part with their silver at an under value. But supposing, that having a mind to raise your silver in respect of gold, you make a law to do it, what comes of that? If your law prevail, only this; that, as much as you raise silver, you debase gold, (for they are in the condition of two things, put in opposite scales, as much as the one rises the other falls) and then your gold will be carried away with so much clear loss to the kingdom, as you raise silver and debase gold by your law, below their natural value. If you raise gold in proportion to silver, the same effect follows.
I say, raise silver in respect of gold, and gold in proportion to silver. For, when you would raise the value of money, fancy what you will, it is but in respect of something you would change it for; and is done only when you can make a less quantity of the metal, which your money is made of, change for a greater quantity of that thing which you would raise it to.
The effect indeed, and ill consequence of raising either of these two metals, in respect of the other, is more easily observed, and sooner found in raising gold than silver coin: because your accounts being kept, and your reckonings all made in pounds, shillings, and pence, which are denominations of silver coins, or numbers of them; if gold be made current at a rate above the free and market value of those two metals, every one will easily perceive the inconvenience. But there being a law for it, you cannot refuse the gold in payment for so much. And all the money, or bullion, people will carry beyond sea from you, will be in silver; and the money, or bullion, brought in, will be in gold. And
just the same will happen, when your silver is raised and gold debased, in respect of one another, beyond their true and natural proportion : (natural proportion or value I call that respective rate they find, any where, without the prescription of law.) For then silver will be that which is brought in, and gold will be carried out; and that still with loss to the kingdom, answerable to the over-value set by the law. Only as soon as the mischief is felt, people will (do what you can) raise the gold to its natural value. For your accounts and bargains being made in the denomination of silver money, if, when gold is raised above its proportion, by the law, you cannot refuse it in payment (as if the law should make a guinea current at 22s. 6d.) you are bound to take it at that rate in payment. But if the law should make guineas current at 20s., he that has them is not bound to pay them away at that rate, but may keep them, if he pleases, or get more for them, if he can: yet, from such a law, one of these things will follow. Either, 1st, The law forces them to go at 20s. and then being found passing at that rate, foreigners make their advantage of it: Or, 2dly, People keep them up, and will not part with them at the legal rate, understanding them really to be worth more, and then all your gold lies dead, and is of no more use to trade than if it were all gone out of the kingdom: Or, 3dly, It passes for more than the law allows, and then your law signifies nothing, and had been better let alone. Which way soever it succeeds, it proves either prejudicial or ineffectual. If the design of your law takes place, the kingdom loses by it: if the inconvenience be felt and avoided, your law is eluded.
Money is the measure of commerce, and of the rate of every thing, and therefore ought to be kept (as all other measures) as steady and invariable as may be. But this cannot be, if your money be made of two metals, whose proportion, and, consequently, whose price, constantly varies in respect to one another. Silver, for many reasons, is the fittest of all metals to be this measure; and therefore generally made use of for money. But then it is very unfit and inconvenient that gold, or any other metal, should be made current, legal money, at a standing, settled rate. This is to set a rate upon the varying value of things by law, which justly cannot be done; and is, as I have showed, as far as it prevails, a constant damage and prejudice to the country, where it is practised. Suppose fifteen to one be now the exact par between gold and silver, what law can make it lasting; and establish it so, that next year, or twenty years hence, this shall be the just value of gold to silver: and that one ounce of gold shall be just worth fifteen ounces of silver, neither more nor less? It is possible, the East India trade sweeping away great sums of gold, may make it scarcer in Europe. Perhaps the Guinea trade, and mines of Peru, affording it in greater abundance, may make it more plentiful; ană so its value, in respect of silver, come on the one side to be as sixteen, or, on the other, as fourteen to one. And can any law you shall make alter this proportion here, when it is so every where else round about you? If your law set it at fifteen, when it is, at the free market rate, in the neighbouring countries, as sixteen to one; will they not send hither their silver to fetch away your gold at one sixteen loss to you? Or if you will keep its rate to silver as fifteen to one, when in Holland, France, and Spain, its market value is but fourteen; will they not send hither their gold, and fetch away your silver, at one fifteen loss to you? This is unavoidable, if you will make money of both gold and silver, at the same time, and set rates upon them by law, in respect of one another.
What then! (will you be ready to say) Would you have gold kept out of England? Or, being here, would you have it useless to trade; and must there be no money made of it? I answer, quite the contrary. It is fit the kingdom should make use of the treasure it has. It is necessary your gold should be coined, and have the king's stamp upon it, to secure men in receiving it, that there is so much gold in each piece. But it is not necessary that it should have a fixed value set on it by public authority: it is not convenient that it should in its varying proportion, have a settled price. Let gold, as other commodities, find its own rate. And when, by the king's image and inscription, it carries with it a public assurance of its weight and fineness; the gold money, so coined, will never fail to pass at the known market rates, as readily as any other species of your money. Twenty guineas, though designed at first for 201., go now as current for 21l. 10s. as any other money, and sometimes for more, as the rate varies. The value, or price, of any thing, being only the respective estimate it bears to some other, which it comes in competition with, can only be known by the quantity of the one which will exchange for a certain quantity of the other. There being no two things in nature whose proportion and use does not vary, it is impossible to set a standing, regular price between them. The growing plenty, or scarcity, of either in the market, (whereby I mean the ordinary place where they are to be had in traffic) or the real use, or changing fashion of the place, bringing either of them more into demand than formerly, presently varies the respective value of any two things. You will as fruitlessly endeavour to keep two different things steadily at the same price one with another, as to keep two things in an equilibrium, where their varying weights depend on different causes. Put a piece of sponge in one scale, and an exact counterpoise of silver in the other; you will be mightily mistaken if you imagine, that because they are to-day equal, they shall always remain so. The weight of the sponge varying with every change of moisture in the air, the silver, in the opposite scale, will sometimes rise and sometimes fall. This is just the state of silver and gold, in regard of their mutual value. Their proportion, or use, may, nay constantly does vary, and with it their price. For, being estimated one in reference to the other, they are, as it were, put in opposite scales; and as the one rises the other falls, and so on the contrary.