home | authors | books | about

Home -> Adam Smith -> An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations -> Chapter 11 continue..

An Inquiry Into The Nature And Causes Of The Wealth Of Nations - Chapter 11 continue..

1. Introduction And Plan Of The Work

2. Book 1, Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 8 continue

11. Chapter 9

12. Chapter 10

13. Chapter 10 continue

14. Chapter 11

15. Chapter 11 continue

16. Chapter 11 continue.

17. Chapter 11 continue..

18. Chapter 11 continue...

19. Conclusion of the Chapter 11

20. Book 2 Introduction

21. Chapter 1

22. Chapter II

23. Chapter II continue

24. Chapter II continue

25. Chapter 3

26. Chapter 4

27. Chapter 5

28. Book 3, Chapter 1

29. Chapter 2

30. Chapter 3

31. Chapter 4

32. Book 4, Chapter 1

33. Chapter 1 continue

34. Chapter 2

35. Chapter 3, Part 1

36. Chapter 3, Part 2

37. Chapter 4

38. Chapter 5

39. Chapter 5 continue

40. Chapter 6

41. Chapter 7, Part 1

42. Chapter 7, Part 2

43. Chapter 7, Part 3

44. Chapter 7, Part 3 continue

45. Chapter 8

46. Chapter 9

47. Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1

48. Chapter 1, Part 2

49. Chapter 1, Part 3

50. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue

51. Chapter 1, Part 3 continue B

52. Chapter 1, Part 4

53. Chapter 2, Part 1

54. Chapter 2, Part 2

55. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue

56. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue B

57. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue C

58. Chapter 2, Part 2 continue D

59. Chapter 3

60. Chapter 3 continue







Variations in the Proportion between the respective Values of Gold and
Silver.

Before the discovery of the mines of America, the value of fine gold to
fine silver was regulated in the different mines of Europe, between the
proportions of one to ten and one to twelve; that is, an ounce of fine
gold was supposed to be worth from ten to twelve ounces of fine silver.
About the middle of the last century, it came to be regulated, between
the proportions of one to fourteen and one to fifteen; that is, an ounce
of fine gold came to be supposed worth between fourteen and fifteen
ounces of fine silver. Gold rose in its nominal value, or in the
quantity of silver which was given for it. Both metals sunk in their
real value, or in the quantity of labour which they could purchase; but
silver sunk more than gold. Though both the gold and silver mines
of America exceeded in fertility all those which had ever been
known before, the fertility of the silver mines had, it seems, been
proportionally still greater than that of the gold ones.

The great quantities of silver carried annually from Europe to India,
have, in some of the English settlements, gradually reduced the value of
that metal in proportion to gold. In the mint of Calcutta, an ounce of
fine gold is supposed to be worth fifteen ounces of fine silver, in the
same manner as in Europe. It is in the mint, perhaps, rated too high
for the value which it bears in the market of Bengal. In China, the
proportion of gold to silver still continues as one to ten, or one to
twelve. In Japan, it is said to be as one to eight.

The proportion between the quantities of gold and silver annually
imported into Europe, according to Mr Meggens' account, is as one to
twenty-two nearly; that is, for one ounce of gold there are imported
a little more than twenty-two ounces of silver. The great quantity
of silver sent annually to the East Indies reduces, he supposes, the
quantities of those metals which remain in Europe to the proportion
of one to fourteen or fifteen, the proportion of their values. The
proportion between their values, he seems to think, must necessarily be
the same as that between their quantities, and would therefore be as one
to twenty-two, were it not for this greater exportation of silver.

But the ordinary proportion between the respective values of two
commodities is not necessarily the same as that between the quantities
of them which are commonly in the market. The price of an ox, reckoned
at ten guineas, is about three score times the price of a lamb, reckoned
at 3s. 6d. It would be absurd, however, to infer from thence, that there
are commonly in the market three score lambs for one ox; and it would be
just as absurd to infer, because an ounce of gold will commonly purchase
from fourteen or fifteen ounces of silver, that there are commonly in
the market only fourteen or fifteen ounces of silver for one ounce of
gold.

The quantity of silver commonly in the market, it is probable, is much
greater in proportion to that of gold, than the value of a certain
quantity of gold is to that of an equal quantity of silver. The whole
quantity of a cheap commodity brought to market is commonly not only
greater, but of greater value, than the whole quantity of a dear one.
The whole quantity of bread annually brought to market, is not only
greater, but of greater value, than the whole quantity of butcher's
meat; the whole quantity of butcher's meat, than the whole quantity of
poultry; and the whole quantity of poultry, than the whole quantity of
wild fowl. There are so many more purchasers for the cheap than for the
dear commodity, that, not only a greater quantity of it, but a greater
value can commonly be disposed of. The whole quantity, therefore, of
the cheap commodity, must commonly be greater in proportion to the whole
quantity of the dear one, than the value of a certain quantity of the
dear one, is to the value of an equal quantity of the cheap one. When
we compare the precious metals with one another, silver is a cheap, and
gold a dear commodity. We ought naturally to expect, therefore, that
there should always be in the market, not only a greater quantity, but
a greater value of silver than of gold. Let any man, who has a little of
both, compare his own silver with his gold plate, and he will probably
find, that not only the quantity, but the value of the former, greatly
exceeds that of the latter. Many people, besides, have a good deal of
silver who have no gold plate, which, even with those who have it, is
generally confined to watch-cases, snuff-boxes, and such like trinkets,
of which the whole amount is seldom of great value. In the British coin,
indeed, the value of the gold preponderates greatly, but it is not so in
that of all countries. In the coin of some countries, the value of the
two metals is nearly equal. In the Scotch coin, before the union with
England, the gold preponderated very little, though it did somewhat
{See Ruddiman's Preface to Anderson's Diplomata, etc. Scotiae.}, as it
appears by the accounts of the mint. In the coin of many countries the
silver preponderates. In France, the largest sums are commonly paid
in that metal, and it is there difficult to get more gold than what is
necessary to carry about in your pocket. The superior value, however,
of the silver plate above that of the gold, which takes place in all
countries, will much more than compensate the preponderancy of the gold
coin above the silver, which takes place only in some countries.

Though, in one sense of the word, silver always has been, and probably
always will be, much cheaper than gold; yet, in another sense, gold
may perhaps, in the present state of the Spanish market, be said to
be somewhat cheaper than silver. A commodity may be said to be dear or
cheap not only according to the absolute greatness or smallness of
its usual price, but according as that price is more or less above
the lowest for which it is possible to bring it to market for any
considerable time together. This lowest price is that which barely
replaces, with a moderate profit, the stock which must be employed in
bringing the commodity thither. It is the price which affords nothing
to the landlord, of which rent makes not any component part, but which
resolves itself altogether into wages and profit. But, in the present
state of the Spanish market, gold is certainly somewhat nearer to this
lowest price than silver. The tax of the king of Spain upon gold is only
one-twentieth part of the standard metal, or five per cent.; whereas his
tax upon silver amounts to one-tenth part of it, or to ten per cent. In
these taxes, too, it has already been observed, consists the whole rent
of the greater part of the gold and silver mines of Spanish America; and
that upon gold is still worse paid than that upon silver. The profits of
the undertakers of gold mines, too, as they more rarely make a fortune,
must, in general, be still more moderate than those of the undertakers
of silver mines. The price of Spanish gold, therefore, as it affords
both less rent and less profit, must, in the Spanish market, be somewhat
nearer to the lowest price for which it is possible to bring it thither,
than the price of Spanish silver. When all expenses are computed, the
whole quantity of the one metal, it would seem, cannot, in the Spanish
market, be disposed of so advantageously as the whole quantity of the
other. The tax, indeed, of the king of Portugal upon the gold of the
Brazils, is the same with the ancient tax of the king of Spain upon the
silver of Mexico and Peru; or one-fifth part of the standard metal. It
may therefore be uncertain, whether, to the general market of Europe,
the whole mass of American gold comes at a price nearer to the lowest
for which it is possible to bring it thither, than the whole mass of
American silver.

The price of diamonds and other precious stones may, perhaps, be still
nearer to the lowest price at which it is possible to bring them to
market, than even the price of gold.

Though it is not very probable that any part of a tax, which is not only
imposed upon one of the most proper subjects of taxation, a mere luxury
and superfluity, but which affords so very important a revenue as the
tax upon silver, will ever be given up as long as it is possible to pay
it; yet the same impossibility of paying it, which, in 1736. made it
necessary to reduce it from one-fifth to one-tenth, may in time make it
necessary to reduce it still further; in the same manner as it made it
necessary to reduce the tax upon gold to one-twentieth. That the silver
mines of Spanish America, like all other mines, become gradually more
expensive in the working, on account of the greater depths at which
it is necessary to carry on the works, and of the greater expense of
drawing out the water, and of supplying them with fresh air at those
depths, is acknowledged by everybody who has inquired into the state of
those mines.

These causes, which are equivalent to a growing scarcity of silver (for
a commodity may be said to grow scarcer when it becomes more difficult
and expensive to collect a certain quantity of it), must, in time,
produce one or other of the three following events: The increase of
the expense must either, first, be compensated altogether by a
proportionable increase in the price of the metal; or, secondly, it must
be compensated altogether by a proportionable diminution of the tax upon
silver; or, thirdly, it must be compensated partly by the one and partly
by the other of those two expedients. This third event is very possible.
As gold rose in its price in proportion to silver, notwithstanding a
great diminution of the tax upon gold, so silver might rise in its
price in proportion to labour and commodities, notwithstanding an equal
diminution of the tax upon silver.

Such successive reductions of the tax, however, though they may not
prevent altogether, must certainly retard, more or less, the rise of
the value of silver in the European market. In consequence of such
reductions, many mines may be wrought which could not be wrought before,
because they could not afford to pay the old tax; and the quantity of
silver annually brought to market, must always be somewhat greater,
and, therefore, the value of any given quantity somewhat less, than it
otherwise would have been. In consequence of the reduction in 1736, the
value of silver in the European market, though it may not at this day be
lower than before that reduction, is, probably, at least ten per cent.
lower than it would have been, had the court of Spain continued to exact
the old tax. That, notwithstanding this reduction, the value of silver
has, during the course of the present century, begun to rise somewhat
in the European market, the facts and arguments which have been
alleged above, dispose me to believe, or more properly to suspect and
conjecture; for the best opinion which I can form upon this subject,
scarce, perhaps, deserves the name of belief. The rise, indeed,
supposing there has been any, has hitherto been so very small, that
after all that has been said, it may, perhaps, appear to many people
uncertain, not only whether this event has actually taken place, but
whether the contrary may not have taken place, or whether the value of
silver may not still continue to fall in the European market.

It must be observed, however, that whatever may be the supposed annual
importation of gold and silver, there must be a certain period at which
the annual consumption of those metals will be equal to that annual
importation. Their consumption must increase as their mass increases,
or rather in a much greater proportion. As their mass increases, their
value diminishes. They are more used, and less cared for, and their
consumption consequently increases in a greater proportion than their
mass. After a certain period, therefore, the annual consumption of those
metals must, in this manner, become equal to their annual importation,
provided that importation is not continually increasing; which, in the
present times, is not supposed to be the case.

If, when the annual consumption has become equal to the annual
importation, the annual importation should gradually diminish, the
annual consumption may, for some time, exceed the annual importation.
The mass of those metals may gradually and insensibly diminish, and
their value gradually and insensibly rise, till the annual importation
becoming again stationary, the annual consumption will gradually and
insensibly accommodate itself to what that annual importation can
maintain.

Grounds of the suspicion that the Value of Silver still continues to
decrease.

The increase of the wealth of Europe, and the popular notion, that
as the quantity of the precious metals naturally increases with
the increase of wealth, so their value diminishes as their quantity
increases, may, perhaps, dispose many people to believe that their value
still continues to fall in the European market; and the still gradually
increasing price of many parts of the rude produce of land may confirm
them still farther in this opinion.

That that increase in the quantity of the precious metals, which arises
in any country from the increase of wealth, has no tendency to diminish
their value, I have endeavoured to shew already. Gold and silver
naturally resort to a rich country, for the same reason that all sorts
of luxuries and curiosities resort to it; not because they are cheaper
there than in poorer countries, but because they are dearer, or because
a better price is given for them. It is the superiority of price which
attracts them; and as soon as that superiority ceases, they necessarily
cease to go thither.

If you except corn, and such other vegetables as are raised altogether
by human industry, that all other sorts of rude produce, cattle,
poultry, game of all kinds, the useful fossils and minerals of the
earth, etc. naturally grow dearer, as the society advances in wealth
and improvement, I have endeavoured to shew already. Though such
commodities, therefore, come to exchange for a greater quantity of
silver than before, it will not from thence follow that silver has
become really cheaper, or will purchase less labour than before; but
that such commodities have become really dearer, or will purchase more
labour than before. It is not their nominal price only, but their real
price, which rises in the progress of improvement. The rise of their
nominal price is the effect, not of any degradation of the value of
silver, but of the rise in their real price.

Different Effects of the Progress of Improvement upon three different
sorts of rude Produce.

These different sorts of rude produce may be divided into three classes.
The first comprehends those which it is scarce in the power of human
industry to multiply at all. The second, those which it can multiply
in proportion to the demand. The third, those in which the efficacy of
industry is either limited or uncertain. In the progress of wealth
and improvement, the real price of the first may rise to any degree of
extravagance, and seems not to be limited by any certain boundary.
That of the second, though it may rise greatly, has, however, a certain
boundary, beyond which it cannot well pass for any considerable time
together. That of the third, though its natural tendency is to rise in
the progress of improvement, yet in the same degree of improvement it
may sometimes happen even to fall, sometimes to continue the same, and
sometimes to rise more or less, according as different accidents render
the efforts of human industry, in multiplying this sort of rude produce,
more or less successful.

First Sort.--The first sort of rude produce, of which the price rises in
the progress of improvement, is that which it is scarce in the power
of human industry to multiply at all. It consists in those things which
nature produces only in certain quantities, and which being of a very
perishable nature, it is impossible to accumulate together the produce
of many different seasons. Such are the greater part of rare and
singular birds and fishes, many different sorts of game, almost all
wild-fowl, all birds of passage in particular, as well as many other
things. When wealth, and the luxury which accompanies it, increase, the
demand for these is likely to increase with them, and no effort of human
industry may be able to increase the supply much beyond what it was
before this increase of the demand. The quantity of such commodities,
therefore, remaining the same, or nearly the same, while the competition
to purchase them is continually increasing, their price may rise to
any degree of extravagance, and seems not to be limited by any certain
boundary. If woodcocks should become so fashionable as to sell for
twenty guineas a-piece, no effort of human industry could increase the
number of those brought to market, much beyond what it is at present.
The high price paid by the Romans, in the time of their greatest
grandeur, for rare birds and fishes, may in this manner easily be
accounted for. These prices were not the effects of the low value
of silver in those times, but of the high value of such rarities and
curiosities as human industry could not multiply at pleasure. The real
value of silver was higher at Rome, for sometime before, and after the
fall of the republic, than it is through the greater part of Europe at
present. Three sestertii equal to about sixpence sterling, was the price
which the republic paid for the modius or peck of the tithe wheat of
Sicily. This price, however, was probably below the average market
price, the obligation to deliver their wheat at this rate being
considered as a tax upon the Sicilian farmers. When the Romans,
therefore, had occasion to order more corn than the tithe of wheat
amounted to, they were bound by capitulation to pay for the surplus at
the rate of four sestertii, or eightpence sterling the peck; and this
had probably been reckoned the moderate and reasonable, that is, the
ordinary or average contract price of those times; it is equal to about
one-and-twenty shillings the quarter. Eight-and-twenty shillings the
quarter was, before the late years of scarcity, the ordinary contract
price of English wheat, which in quality is inferior to the Sicilian,
and generally sells for a lower price in the European market. The value
of silver, therefore, in those ancient times, must have been to its
value in the present, as three to four inversely; that is, three ounces
of silver would then have purchased the same quantity of labour and
commodities which four ounces will do at present. When we read in Pliny,
therefore, that Seius {Lib. X, c. 29.} bought a white nightingale, as
a present for the empress Agrippina, at the price of six thousand
sestertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our present money; and that
Asinius Celer {Lib. IX, c. 17.} purchased a surmullet at the price
of eight thousand sestertii, equal to about sixty-six pounds thirteen
shillings and fourpence of our present money; the extravagance of those
prices, how much soever it may surprise us, is apt, notwithstanding, to
appear to us about one third less than it really was. Their real price,
the quantity of labour and subsistence which was given away for them,
was about one-third more than their nominal price is apt to express to
us in the present times. Seius gave for the nightingale the command of
a quantity of labour and subsistence, equal to what 66:13: 4d. would
purchase in the present times; and Asinius Celer gave for a surmullet
the command of a quantity equal to what 88:17: 9d. would purchase.
What occasioned the extravagance of those high prices was, not so much
the abundance of silver, as the abundance of labour and subsistence, of
which those Romans had the disposal, beyond what was necessary for their
own use. The quantity of silver, of which they had the disposal, was a
good deal less than what the command of the same quantity of labour and
subsistence would have procured to them in the present times.

Second sort.--The second sort of rude produce, of which the price
rises in the progress of improvement, is that which human industry can
multiply in proportion to the demand. It consists in those useful plants
and animals, which, in uncultivated countries, nature produces with such
profuse abundance, that they are of little or no value, and which, as
cultivation advances, are therefore forced to give place to some more
profitable produce. During a long period in the progress of improvement,
the quantity of these is continually diminishing, while, at the same
time, the demand for them is continually increasing. Their real value,
therefore, the real quantity of labour which they will purchase or
command, gradually rises, till at last it gets so high as to render them
as profitable a produce as any thing else which human industry can raise
upon the most fertile and best cultivated land. When it has got so high,
it cannot well go higher. If it did, more land and more industry would
soon be employed to increase their quantity.

When the price of cattle, for example, rises so high, that it is as
profitable to cultivate land in order to raise food for them as in order
to raise food for man, it cannot well go higher. If it did, more corn
land would soon be turned into pasture. The extension of tillage, by
diminishing the quantity of wild pasture, diminishes the quantity of
butcher's meat, which the country naturally produces without labour
or cultivation; and, by increasing the number of those who have either
corn, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of corn, to give in
exchange for it, increases the demand. The price of butcher's meat,
therefore, and, consequently, of cattle, must gradually rise, till it
gets so high, that it becomes as profitable to employ the most fertile
and best cultivated lands in raising food for them as in raising corn.
But it must always be late in the progress of improvement before tillage
can be so far extended as to raise the price of cattle to this height;
and, till it has got to this height, if the country is advancing at all,
their price must be continually rising. There are, perhaps, some parts
of Europe in which the price of cattle has not yet got to this height.
It had not got to this height in any part of Scotland before the Union.
Had the Scotch cattle been always confined to the market of Scotland,
in a country in which the quantity of land, which can be applied to no
other purpose but the feeding of cattle, is so great in proportion to
what can be applied to other purposes, it is scarce possible, perhaps,
that their price could ever have risen so high as to render it
profitable to cultivate land for the sake of feeding them. In England,
the price of cattle, it has already been observed, seems, in the
neighbourhood of London, to have got to this height about the beginning
of the last century; but it was much later, probably, before it got
through the greater part of the remoter counties, in some of which,
perhaps, it may scarce yet have got to it. Of all the different
substances, however, which compose this second sort of rude produce,
cattle is, perhaps, that of which the price, in the progress of
improvement, rises first to this height.

Till the price of cattle, indeed, has got to this height, it seems
scarce possible that the greater part, even of those lands which are
capable of the highest cultivation, can be completely cultivated. In all
farms too distant from any town to carry manure from it, that is, in the
far greater part of those of every extensive country, the quantity of
well cultivated land must be in proportion to the quantity of manure
which the farm itself produces; and this, again, must be in proportion
to the stock of cattle which are maintained upon it. The land is
manured, either by pasturing the cattle upon it, or by feeding them in
the stable, and from thence carrying out their dung to it. But unless
the price of the cattle be sufficient to pay both the rent and profit of
cultivated land, the farmer cannot afford to pasture them upon it; and
he can still less afford to feed them in the stable. It is with the
produce of improved and cultivated land only that cattle can be fed
in the stable; because, to collect the scanty and scattered produce of
waste and unimproved lands, would require too much labour, and be too
expensive. It the price of the cattle, therefore, is not sufficient
to pay for the produce of improved and cuitivated land, when they are
allowed to pasture it, that price will be still less sufficient to
pay for that produce, when it must be collected with a good deal
of additional labour, and brought into the stable to them. In these
circumstances, therefore, no more cattle can with profit be fed in the
stable than what are necessary for tillage. But these can never afford
manure enough for keeping constantly in good condition all the
lands which they are capable of cultivating. What they afford, being
insufficient for the whole farm, will naturally be reserved for the
lands to which it can be most advantageously or conveniently applied;
the most fertile, or those, perhaps, in the neighbourhood of the
farm-yard. These, therefore, will be kept constantly in good condition,
and fit for tillage. The rest will, the greater part of them, be allowed
to lie waste, producing scarce any thing but some miserable pasture,
just sufficient to keep alive a few straggling, half-starved cattle; the
farm, though much overstocked in proportion to what would be necessary
for its complete cultivation, being very frequently overstocked in
proportion to its actual produce. A portion of this waste land, however,
after having been pastured in this wretched manner for six or seven
years together, may be ploughed up, when it will yield, perhaps, a poor
crop or two of bad oats, or of some other coarse grain; and then, being
entirely exhausted, it must be rested and pastured again as before,
and another portion ploughed up, to be in the same manner exhausted and
rested again in its turn. Such, accordingly, was the general system of
management all over the low country of Scotland before the Union. The
lands which were kept constantly well manured and in good condition
seldom exceeded a third or fourth part of the whole farm, and sometimes
did not amount to a fifth or a sixth part of it. The rest were never
manured, but a certain portion of them was in its turn, notwithstanding,
regularly cultivated and exhausted. Under this system of management, it
is evident, even that part of the lands of Scotland which is capable of
good cultivation, could produce but little in comparison of what it may
be capable of producing. But how disadvantageous soever this system may
appear, yet, before the Union, the low price of cattle seems to have
rendered it almost unavoidable. If, notwithstanding a great rise in the
price, it still continues to prevail through a considerable part of
the country, it is owing in many places, no doubt, to ignorance and
attachment to old customs, but, in most places, to the unavoidable
obstructions which the natural course of things opposes to the immediate
or speedy establishment of a better system: first, to the poverty of the
tenants, to their not having yet had time to acquire a stock of cattle
sufficient to cultivate their lands more completely, the same rise of
price, which would render it advantageous for them to maintain a
greater stock, rendering it more difficult for them to acquire it;
and, secondly, to their not having yet had time to put their lands in
condition to maintain this greater stock properly, supposing they were
capable of acquiring it. The increase of stock and the improvement of
land are two events which must go hand in hand, and of which the one can
nowhere much outrun the other. Without some increase of stock, there
can be scarce any improvement of land, but there can be no considerable
increase of stock, but in consequence of a considerable improvement of
land; because otherwise the land could not maintain it. These natural
obstructions to the establishment of a better system, cannot be removed
but by a long course of frugality and industry; and half a century or
a century more, perhaps, must pass away before the old system, which
is wearing out gradually, can be completely abolished through all
the different parts of the country. Of all the commercial advantages,
however, which Scotland has derived from the Union with England, this
rise in the price of cattle is, perhaps, the greatest. It has not only
raised the value of all highland estates, but it has, perhaps, been the
principal cause of the improvement of the low country.

In all new colonies, the great quantity of waste land, which can for
many years be applied to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle,
soon renders them extremely abundant; and in every thing great cheapness
is the necessary consequence of great abundance. Though all the cattle
of the European colonies in America were originally carried from Europe,
they soon multiplied so much there, and became of so little value, that
even horses were allowed to run wild in the woods, without any owner
thinking it worth while to claim them. It must be a long time after the
first establishment of such colonies, before it can become profitable
to feed cattle upon the produce of cultivated land. The same causes,
therefore, the want of manure, and the disproportion between the stock
employed in cultivation and the land which it is destined to cultivate,
are likely to introduce there a system of husbandry, not unlike that
which still continues to take place in so many parts of Scotland. Mr
Kalm, the Swedish traveller, when he gives an account of the husbandry
of some of the English colonies in North America, as he found it in
1749, observes, accordingly, that he can with difficulty discover
there the character of the English nation, so well skilled in all the
different branches of agriculture. They make scarce any manure for their
corn fields, he says; but when one piece of ground has been exhausted
by continual cropping, they clear and cultivate another piece of fresh
land; and when that is exhausted, proceed to a third. Their cattle are
allowed to wander through the woods and other uncultivated grounds,
where they are half-starved; having long ago extirpated almost all the
annual grasses, by cropping them too early in the spring, before they
had time to form their flowers, or to shed their seeds. {Kalm's Travels,
vol 1, pp. 343, 344.} The annual grasses were, it seems, the best
natural grasses in that part of North America; and when the Europeans
first settled there, they used to grow very thick, and to rise three
or four feet high. A piece of ground which, when he wrote, could not
maintain one cow, would in former times, he was assured, have maintained
four, each of which would have given four times the quantity of milk
which that one was capable of giving. The poorness of the pasture
had, in his opinion, occasioned the degradation of their cattle, which
degenerated sensibly from me generation to another. They were probably
not unlike that stunted breed which was common all over Scotland thirty
or forty years ago, and which is now so much mended through the greater
part of the low country, not so much by a change of the breed, though
that expedient has been employed in some places, as by a more plentiful
method of feeding them.

Though it is late, therefore, in the progress of improvement, before
cattle can bring such a price as to render it profitable to cultivate
land for the sake of feeding them; yet of all the different parts which
compose this second sort of rude produce, they are perhaps the first
which bring this price; because, till they bring it, it seems impossible
that improvement can be brought near even to that degree of perfection
to which it has arrived in many parts of Europe.

As cattle are among the first, so perhaps venison is among the last
parts of this sort of rude produce which bring this price. The price of
venison in Great Britain, how extravagant soever it may appear, is not
near sufficient to compensate the expense of a deer park, as is well
known to all those who have had any experience in the feeding of deer.
If it was otherwise, the feeding of deer would soon become an article of
common farming, in the same manner as the feeding of those small birds,
called turdi, was among the ancient Romans. Varro and Columella assure
us, that it was a most profitable article. The fattening of ortolans,
birds of passage which arrive lean in the country, is said to be so in
some parts of France. If venison continues in fashion, and the wealth
and luxury of Great Britain increase as they have done for some time
past, its price may very probably rise still higher than it is at
present.

Between that period in the progress of improvement, which brings to its
height the price of so necessary an article as cattle, and that which
brings to it the price of such a superfluity as venison, there is a very
long interval, in the course of which many other sorts of rude produce
gradually arrive at their highest price, some sooner and some later,
according to different circumstances.

Thus, in every farm, the offals of the barn and stable will maintain
a certain number of poultry. These, as they are fed with what would
otherwise be lost, are a mere save-all; and as they cost the farmer
scarce any thing, so he can afford to sell them for very little. Almost
all that he gets is pure gain, and their price can scarce be so low
as to discourage him from feeding this number. But in countries ill
cultivated, and therefore but thinly inhabited, the poultry, which are
thus raised without expense, are often fully sufficient to supply the
whole demand. In this state of things, therefore, they are often as
cheap as butcher's meat, or any other sort of animal food. But the
whole quantity of poultry which the farm in this manner produces
without expense, must always be much smaller than the whole quantity
of butcher's meat which is reared upon it; and in times of wealth and
luxury, what is rare, with only nearly equal merit, is always preferred
to what is common. As wealth and luxury increase, therefore, in
consequence of improvement and cultivation, the price of poultry
gradually rises above that of butcher's meat, till at last it gets
so high, that it becomes profitable to cultivate land for the sake of
feeding them. When it has got to this height, it cannot well go higher.
If it did, more land would soon be turned to this purpose. In several
provinces of France, the feeding of poultry is considered as a very
important article in rural economy, and sufficiently profitable to
encourage the farmer to raise a considerable quantity of Indian corn and
buckwheat for this purpose. A middling farmer will there sometimes have
four hundred fowls in his yard. The feeding of poultry seems scarce yet
to be generally considered as a matter of so much importance in England.
They are certainly, however, dearer in England than in France, as
England receives considerable supplies from France. In the progress of
improvements, the period at which every particular sort of animal
food is dearest, must naturally be that which immediately precedes the
general practice of cultivating land for the sake of raising it. For
some time before this practice becomes general, the scarcity must
necessarily raise the price. After it has become general, new methods of
feeding are commonly fallen upon, which enable the farmer to raise upon
the same quantity of ground a much greater quantity of that particular
sort of animal food. The plenty not only obliges him to sell cheaper,
but, in consequence of these improvements, he can afford to sell
cheaper; for if he could not afford it, the plenty would not be of long
continuance. It has been probably in this manner that the introduction
of clover, turnips, carrots, cabbages, etc. has contributed to sink the
common price of butcher's meat in the London market, somewhat below what
it was about the beginning of the last century.

The hog, that finds his food among ordure, and greedily devours
many things rejected by every other useful animal, is, like poultry,
originally kept as a save-all. As long as the number of such animals,
which can thus be reared at little or no expense, is fully sufficient to
supply the demand, this sort of butcher's meat comes to market at a much
lower price than any other. But when the demand rises beyond what this
quantity can supply, when it becomes necessary to raise food on purpose
for feeding and fattening hogs, in the same manner as for feeding
and fattening other cattle, the price necessarily rises, and becomes
proportionably either higher or lower than that of other butcher's
meat, according as the nature of the country, and the state of its
agriculture, happen to render the feeding of hogs more or less expensive
than that of other cattle. In France, according to Mr Buffon, the price
of pork is nearly equal to that of beef. In most parts of Great Britain
it is at present somewhat higher.

The great rise in the price both of hogs and poultry, has, in Great
Britain, been frequently imputed to the diminution of the number of
cottagers and other small occupiers of land; an event which has in every
part of Europe been the immediate forerunner of improvement and better
cultivation, but which at the same time may have contributed to raise
the price of those articles, both somewhat sooner and somewhat faster
than it would otherwise have risen. As the poorest family can often
maintain a cat or a dog without any expense, so the poorest occupiers
of land can commonly maintain a few poultry, or a sow and a few pigs, at
very little. The little offals of their own table, their whey, skimmed
milk, and butter milk, supply those animals with a part of their food,
and they find the rest in the neighbouring fields, without doing any
sensible damage to any body. By diminishing the number of those small
occupiers, therefore, the quantity of this sort of provisions, which is
thus produced at little or no expense, must certainly have been a good
deal diminished, and their price must consequently have been raised both
sooner and faster than it would otherwise have risen. Sooner or later,
however, in the progress of improvement, it must at any rate have risen
to the utmost height to which it is capable of rising; or to the
price which pays the labour and expense of cultivating the land which
furnishes them with food, as well as these are paid upon the greater
part of other cultivated land.

The business of the dairy, like the feeding of hogs and poultry, is
originally carried on as a save-all. The cattle necessarily kept upon
the farm produce more milk than either the rearing of their own young,
or the consumption of the farmer's family requires; and they produce
most at one particular season. But of all the productions of land, milk
is perhaps the most perishable. In the warm season, when it is most
abundant, it will scarce keep four-and-twenty hours. The farmer, by
making it into fresh butter, stores a small part of it for a week; by
making it into salt butter, for a year; and by making it into cheese, he
stores a much greater part of it for several years. Part of all these
is reserved for the use of his own family; the rest goes to market, in
order to find the best price which is to be had, and which can scarce
be so low is to discourage him from sending thither whatever is over and
above the use of his own family. If it is very low indeed, he will be
likely to manage his dairy in a very slovenly and dirty manner, and
will scarce, perhaps, think it worth while to have a particular room or
building on purpose for it, but will suffer the business to be carried
on amidst the smoke, filth, and nastiness of his own kitchen, as was
the case of almost all the farmers' dairies in Scotland thirty or forty
years ago, and as is the case of many of them still. The same causes
which gradually raise the price of butcher's meat, the increase of
the demand, and, in consequence of the improvement of the country, the
diminution of the quantity which can be fed at little or no expense,
raise, in the same manner, that of the produce of the dairy, of which
the price naturally connects with that of butcher's meat, or with the
expense of feeding cattle. The increase of price pays for more labour,
care, and cleanliness. The dairy becomes more worthy of the farmer's
attention, and the quality of its produce gradually improves. The price
at last gets so high, that it becomes worth while to employ some of the
most fertile and best cultivated lands in feeding cattle merely for the
purpose of the dairy; and when it has got to this height, it cannot well
go higher. If it did, more land would soon be turned to this purpose.
It seems to have got to this height through the greater part of England,
where much good land is commonly employed in this manner. If you except
the neighbourhood of a few considerable towns, it seems not yet to have
got to this height anywhere in Scotland, where common farmers seldom
employ much good land in raising food for cattle, merely for the
purpose of the dairy. The price of the produce, though it has risen very
considerably within these few years, is probably still too low to admit
of it. The inferiority of the quality, indeed, compared with that of
the produce of English dairies, is fully equal to that of the price.
But this inferiority of quality is, perhaps, rather the effect of this
lowness of price, than the cause of it. Though the quality was much
better, the greater part of what is brought to market could not, I
apprehend, in the present circumstances of the country, be disposed of
at a much better price; and the present price, it is probable, would not
pay the expense of the land and labour necessary for producing a much
better quality. Through the greater part of England, notwithstanding
the superiority of price, the dairy is not reckoned a more profitable
employment of land than the raising of corn, or the fattening of cattle,
the two great objects of agriculture. Through the greater part of
Scotland, therefore, it cannot yet be even so profitable.

The lands of no country, it is evident, can ever be completely
cultivated and improved, till once the price of every produce, which
human industry is obliged to raise upon them, has got so high as to pay
for the expense of complete improvement and cultivation. In order to do
this, the price of each particular produce must be sufficient, first, to
pay the rent of good corn land, as it is that which regulates the rent
of the greater part of other cultivated land; and, secondly, to pay the
labour and expense of the farmer, as well as they are commonly paid upon
good corn land; or, in other words, to replace with the ordinary profits
the stock which he employs about it. This rise in the price of each
particular produce; must evidently be previous to the improvement and
cultivation of the land which is destined for raising it. Gain is the
end of all improvement; and nothing could deserve that name, of which
loss was to be the necessary consequence. But loss must be the necessary
consequence of improving land for the sake of a produce of which the
price could never bring back the expense. If the complete improvement
and cultivation of the country be, as it most certainly is, the greatest
of all public advantages, this rise in the price of all those different
sorts of rude produce, instead of being considered as a public calamity,
ought to be regarded as the necessary forerunner and attendant of the
greatest of all public advantages.

This rise, too, in the nominal or money price of all those different
sorts of rude produce, has been the effect, not of any degradation in
the value of silver, but of a rise in their real price. They have become
worth, not only a greater quantity of silver, but a greater quantity of
labour and subsistence than before. As it costs a greater quantity
of labour and subsistence to bring them to market, so, when they are
brought thither they represent, or are equivalent to a greater quantity.

Third Sort.--The third and last sort of rude produce, of which the price
naturally rises in the progress of improvement, is that in which the
efficacy of human industry, in augmenting the quantity, is either
limited or uncertain. Though the real price of this sort of rude
produce, therefore, naturally tends to rise in the progress of
improvement, yet, according as different accidents happen to render
the efforts of human industry more or less successful in augmenting the
quantity, it may happen sometimes even to fall, sometimes to continue
the same, in very different periods of improvement, and sometimes to
rise more or less in the same period.

There are some sorts of rude produce which nature has rendered a kind
of appendages to other sorts; so that the quantity of the one which any
country can afford, is necessarily limited by that of the other. The
quantity of wool or of raw hides, for example, which any country can
afford, is necessarily limited by the number of great and small cattle
that are kept in it. The state of its improvement, and the nature of its
agriculture, again necessarily determine this number.

The same causes which, in the progress of improvement, gradually raise
the price of butcher's meat, should have the same effect, it may be
thought, upon the prices of wool and raw hides, and raise them, too,
nearly in the same proportion. It probably would be so, if, in the rude
beginnings of improvement, the market for the latter commodities was
confined within as narrow bounds as that for the former. But the extent
of their respective markets is commonly extremely different.

The market for butcher's meat is almost everywhere confined to the
country which produces it. Ireland, and some part of British America,
indeed, carry on a considerable trade in salt provisions; but they are,
I believe, the only countries in the commercial world which do so, or
which export to other countries any considerable part of their butcher's
meat.

The market for wool and raw hides, on the contrary, is, in the rude
beginnings of improvement, very seldom confined to the country which
produces them. They can easily be transported to distant countries; wool
without any preparation, and raw hides with very little; and as they are
the materials of many manufactures, the industry of other countries may
occasion a demand for them, though that of the country which produces
them might not occasion any.

In countries ill cultivated, and therefore but thinly inhabited, the
price of the wool and the hide bears always a much greater proportion
to that of the whole beast, than in countries where, improvement and
population being further advanced, there is more demand for butcher's
meat. Mr Hume observes, that in the Saxon times, the fleece was
estimated at two-fifths of the value of the whole sheep and that
this was much above the proportion of its present estimation. In some
provinces of Spain, I have been assured, the sheep is frequently killed
merely for the sake of the fleece and the tallow. The carcase is often
left to rot upon the ground, or to be devoured by beasts and birds
of prey. If this sometimes happens even in Spain, it happens almost
constantly in Chili, at Buenos Ayres, and in many other parts of Spanish
America, where the horned cattle are almost constantly killed merely for
the sake of the hide and the tallow. This, too, used to happen almost
constantly in Hispaniola, while it was infested by the buccaneers,
and before the settlement, improvement, and populousness of the French
plantations ( which now extend round the coast of almost the whole
western half of the island) had given some value to the cattle of the
Spaniards, who still continue to possess, not only the eastern part of
the coast, but the whole inland mountainous part of the country.

Though, in the progress of improvement and population, the price of the
whole beast necessarily rises, yet the price of the carcase is likely to
be much more affected by this rise than that of the wool and the hide.
The market for the carcase being in the rude state of society confined
always to the country which produces it, must necessarily be extended
in proportion to the improvement and population of that country. But the
market for the wool and the hides, even of a barbarous country, often
extending to the whole commercial world, it can very seldom be enlarged
in the same proportion. The state of the whole commercial world can
seldom be much affected by the improvement of any particular country;
and the market for such commodities may remain the same, or very nearly
the same, after such improvements, as before. It should, however, in the
natural course of things, rather, upon the whole, be somewhat extended
in consequence of them. If the manufactures, especially, of which those
commodities are the materials, should ever come to flourish in the
country, the market, though it might not be much enlarged, would at
least be brought much nearer to the place of growth than before; and the
price of those materials might at least be increased by what had usually
been the expense of transporting them to distant countries. Though it
might not rise, therefore, in the same proportion as that of butcher's
meat, it ought naturally to rise somewhat, and it ought certainly not to
fall.

In England, however, notwithstanding the flourishing state of its
woollen manufacture, the price of English wool has fallen very
considerably since the time of Edward III. There are many authentic
records which demonstrate that, during the reign of that prince (towards
the middle of the fourteenth century, or about 1339), what was reckoned
the moderate and reasonable price of the tod, or twenty-eight pounds
of English wool, was not less than ten shillings of the money of those
times {See Smith's Memoirs of Wool, vol. i c. 5, 6, 7. also vol. ii.},
containing, at the rate of twenty-pence the ounce, six ounces of silver,
Tower weight, equal to about thirty shillings of our present money. In
the present times, one-and-twenty shillings the tod may be reckoned
a good price for very good English wool. The money price of wool,
therefore, in the time of Edward III. was to its money price in the
present times as ten to seven. The superiority of its real price was
still greater. At the rate of six shillings and eightpence the quarter,
ten shillings was in those ancient times the price of twelve bushels of
wheat. At the rate of twenty-eight shillings the quarter, one-and-twenty
shillings is in the present times the price of six bushels only.
The proportion between the real price of ancient and modern times,
therefore, is as twelve to six, or as two to one. In those ancient
times, a tod of wool would have purchased twice the quantity of
subsistence which it will purchase at present, and consequently twice
the quantity of labour, if the real recompence of labour had been the
same in both periods.

This degradation, both in the real and nominal value of wool, could
never have happened in consequence of the natural course of things. It
has accordingly been the effect of violence and artifice. First, of the
absolute prohibition of exporting wool from England: secondly, of
the permission of importing it from Spain, duty free: thirdly, of the
prohibition of exporting it from Ireland to another country but England.
In consequence of these regulations, the market for English wool,
instead of being somewhat extended, in consequence of the improvement of
England, has been confined to the home market, where the wool of several
other countries is allowed to come into competition with it, and where
that of Ireland is forced into competition with it. As the woollen
manufactures, too, of Ireland, are fully as much discouraged as is
consistent with justice and fair dealing, the Irish can work up but a
smaller part of their own wool at home, and are therefore obliged to
send a greater proportion of it to Great Britain, the only market they
are allowed.

I have not been able to find any such authentic records concerning the
price of raw hides in ancient times. Wool was commonly paid as a subsidy
to the king, and its valuation in that subsidy ascertains, at least in
some degree, what was its ordinary price. But this seems not to have
been the case with raw hides. Fleetwood, however, from an account in
1425, between the prior of Burcester Oxford and one of his canons, gives
us their price, at least as it was stated upon that particular occasion,
viz. five ox hides at twelve shillings; five cow hides at seven
shillings and threepence; thirtysix sheep skins of two years old at
nine shillings; sixteen calf skins at two shillings. In 1425, twelve
shillings contained about the same quantity of silver as four-and-twenty
shillings of our present money. An ox hide, therefore, was in this
account valued at the same quantity of silver as 4s. 4/5ths of our
present money. Its nominal price was a good deal lower than at present.
But at the rate of six shillings and eightpence the quarter, twelve
shillings would in those times have purchased fourteen bushels and
four-fifths of a bushel of wheat, which, at three and sixpence the
bushel, would in the present times cost 51s. 4d. An ox hide, therefore,
would in those times have purchased as much corn as ten shillings and
threepence would purchase at present. Its real value was equal to ten
shillings and threepence of our present money. In those ancient times,
when the cattle were half starved during the greater part of the winter,
we cannot suppose that they were of a very large size. An ox hide
which weighs four stone of sixteen pounds of avoirdupois, is not in
the present times reckoned a bad one; and in those ancient times would
probably have been reckoned a very good one. But at half-a-crown the
stone, which at this moment (February 1773) I understand to be the
common price, such a hide would at present cost only ten shillings.
Through its nominal price, therefore, is higher in the present than
it was in those ancient times, its real price, the real quantity of
subsistence which it will purchase or command, is rather somewhat lower.
The price of cow hides, as stated in the above account, is nearly in
the common proportion to that of ox hides. That of sheep skins is a good
deal above it. They had probably been sold with the wool. That of calves
skins, on the contrary, is greatly below it. In countries where the
price of cattle is very low, the calves, which are not intended to be
reared in order to keep up the stock, are generally killed very young,
as was the case in Scotland twenty or thirty years ago. It saves the
milk, which their price would not pay for. Their skins, therefore, are
commonly good for little.

The price of raw hides is a good deal lower at present than it was a few
years ago; owing probably to the taking off the duty upon seal skins,
and to the allowing, for a limited time, the importation of raw hides
from Ireland, and from the plantations, duty free, which was done in
1769. Take the whole of the present century at an average, their real
price has probably been somewhat higher than it was in those ancient
times. The nature of the commodity renders it not quite so proper
for being transported to distant markets as wool. It suffers more by
keeping. A salted hide is reckoned inferior to a fresh one, and sells
for a lower price. This circumstance must necessarily have some tendency
to sink the price of raw hides produced in a country which does not
manufacture them, but is obliged to export them, and comparatively to
raise that of those produced in a country which does manufacture them.
It must have some tendency to sink their price in a barbarous, and to
raise it in an improved and manufacturing country. It must have had some
tendency, therefore, to sink it in ancient, and to raise it in modern
times. Our tanners, besides, have not been quite so successful as our
clothiers, in convincing the wisdom of the nation, that the safety
of the commonwealth depends upon the prosperity of their particular
manufacture. They have accordingly been much less favoured. The
exportation of raw hides has, indeed, been prohibited, and declared
a nuisance; but their importation from foreign countries has been
subjected to a duty; and though this duty has been taken off from those
of Ireland and the plantations (for the limited time of five years
only), yet Ireland has not been confined to the market of Great
Britain for the sale of its surplus hides, or of those which are not
manufactured at home. The hides of common cattle have, but within
these few years, been put among the enumerated commodities which the
plantations can send nowhere but to the mother country; neither has the
commerce of Ireland been in this case oppressed hitherto, in order to
support the manufactures of Great Britain.

Whatever regulations tend to sink the price, either of wool or of
raw hides, below what it naturally would he, must, in an improved and
cultivated country, have some tendency to raise the price of butcher's
meat. The price both of the great and small cattle, which are fed on
improved and cultivated land, must be sufficient to pay the rent which
the landlord, and the profit which the farmer, has reason to expect from
improved and cultivated land. If it is not, they will soon cease to feed
them. Whatever part of this price, therefore, is not paid by the wool
and the hide, must be paid by the carcase. The less there is paid for
the one, the more must be paid for the other. In what manner this price
is to be divided upon the different parts of the beast, is indifferent
to the landlords and farmers, provided it is all paid to them. In an
improved and cultivated country, therefore, their interest as landlords
and farmers cannot be much affected by such regulations, though their
interest as consumers may, by the rise in the price of provisions. It
would be quite otherwise, however, in an unimproved and uncultivated
country, where the greater part of the lands could be applied to no
other purpose but the feeding of cattle, and where the wool and the hide
made the principal part of the value of those cattle. Their interest as
landlords and farmers would in this case be very deeply affected by such
regulations, and their interest as consumers very little. The fall in
the price of the wool and the hide would not in this case raise the
price of the carcase; because the greater part of the lands of the
country being applicable to no other purpose but the feeding of cattle,
the same number would still continue to be fed. The same quantity of
butcher's meat would still come to market. The demand for it would be no
greater than before. Its price, therefore, would be the same as before.
The whole price of cattle would fall, and along with it both the rent
and the profit of all those lands of which cattle was the principal
produce, that is, of the greater part of the lands of the country. The
perpetual prohibition of the exportation of wool, which is commonly, but
very falsely, ascribed to Edward III., would, in the then circumstances
of the country, have been the most destructive regulation which could
well have been thought of. It would not only have reduced the actual
value of the greater part of the lands in the kingdom, but by reducing
the price of the most important species of small cattle, it would have
retarded very much its subsequent improvement.

The wool of Scotland fell very considerably in its price in consequence
of the union with England, by which it was excluded from the great
market of Europe, and confined to the narrow one of Great Britain.
The value of the greater part of the lands in the southern counties of
Scotland, which are chiefly a sheep country, would have been very deeply
affected by this event, had not the rise in the price of butcher's meat
fully compensated the fall in the price of wool.

As the efficacy of human industry, in increasing the quantity either of
wool or of raw hides, is limited, so far as it depends upon the produce
of the country where it is exerted; so it is uncertain so far as it
depends upon the produce of other countries. It so far depends not so
much upon the quantity which they produce, as upon that which they do
not manufacture; and upon the restraints which they may or may not think
proper to impose upon the exportation of this sort of rude produce.
These circumstances, as they are altogether independent of domestic
industry, so they necessarily render the efficacy of its efforts more or
less uncertain. In multiplying this sort of rude produce, therefore, the
efficacy of human industry is not only limited, but uncertain.

In multiplying another very important sort of rude produce, the quantity
of fish that is brought to market, it is likewise both limited and
uncertain. It is limited by the local situation of the country, by the
proximity or distance of its different provinces from the sea, by the
number of its lakes and rivers, and by what may be called the fertility
or barrenness of those seas, lakes, and rivers, as to this sort of rude
produce. As population increases, as the annual produce of the land and
labour of the country grows greater and greater, there come to be more
buyers of fish; and those buyers, too, have a greater quantity and
variety of other goods, or, what is the same thing, the price of a
greater quantity and variety of other goods, to buy with. But it will
generally be impossible to supply the great and extended market, without
employing a quantity of labour greater than in proportion to what had
been requisite for supplying the narrow and confined one. A market
which, from requiring only one thousand, comes to require annually ten
thousand ton of fish, can seldom be supplied, without employing more
than ten times the quantity of labour which had before been sufficient
to supply it. The fish must generally be sought for at a greater
distance, larger vessels must be employed, and more expensive machinery
of every kind made use of. The real price of this commodity, therefore,
naturally rises in the progress of improvement. It has accordingly done
so, I believe, more or less in every country.

Though the success of a particular day's fishing maybe a very uncertain
matter, yet the local situation of the country being supposed, the
general efficacy of industry in bringing a certain quantity of fish to
market, taking the course of a year, or of several years together, it
may, perhaps, be thought is certain enough; and it, no doubt, is so. As
it depends more, however, upon the local situation of the country, than
upon the state of its wealth and industry; as upon this account it
may in different countries be the same in very different periods of
improvement, and very different in the same period; its connection
with the state of improvement is uncertain; and it is of this sort of
uncertainty that I am here speaking.

In increasing the quantity of the different minerals and metals which
are drawn from the bowels of the earth, that of the more precious ones
particularly, the efficacy of human industry seems not to be limited,
but to be altogether uncertain.

The quantity of the precious metals which is to be found in any
country, is not limited by any thing in its local situation, such as the
fertility or barrenness of its own mines. Those metals frequently abound
in countries which possess no mines. Their quantity, in every particular
country, seems to depend upon two different circumstances; first, upon
its power of purchasing, upon the state of its industry, upon the annual
produce of its land and labour, in consequence of which it can afford
to employ a greater or a smaller quantity of labour and subsistence,
in bringing or purchasing such superfluities as gold and silver, either
from its own mines, or from those of other countries; and, secondly,
upon the fertility or barrenness of the mines which may happen at any
particular time to supply the commercial world with those metals. The
quantity of those metals in the countries most remote from the mines,
must be more or less affected by this fertility or barrenness, on
account of the easy and cheap transportation of those metals, of their
small bulk and great value. Their quantity in China and Indostan
must have been more or less affected by the abundance of the mines of
America.

So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the
former of those two circumstances (the power of purchasing), their real
price, like that of all other luxuries and superfluities, is likely to
rise with the wealth and improvement of the country, and to fall with
its poverty and depression. Countries which have a great quantity of
labour and subsistence to spare, can afford to purchase any particular
quantity of those metals at the expense of a greater quantity of labour
and subsistence, than countries which have less to spare.

So far as their quantity in any particular country depends upon the
latter of those two circumstances (the fertility or barrenness of the
mines which happen to supply the commercial world), their real price,
the real quantity of labour and subsistence which they will purchase
or exchange for, will, no doubt, sink more or less in proportion to the
fertility, and rise in proportion to the barrenness of those mines.

The fertility or barrenness of the mines, however, which may happen at
any particular time to supply the commercial world, is a circumstance
which, it is evident, may have no sort of connection with the state
of industry in a particular country. It seems even to have no very
necessary connection with that of the world in general. As arts and
commerce, indeed, gradually spread themselves over a greater and a
greater part of the earth, the search for new mines, being extended over
a wider surface, may have somewhat a better chance for being successful
than when confined within narrower bounds. The discovery of new mines,
however, as the old ones come to be gradually exhausted, is a matter
of the greatest uncertainty, and such as no human skill or industry
can insure. All indications, it is acknowledged, are doubtful; and
the actual discovery and successful working of a new mine can alone
ascertain the reality of its value, or even of its existence. In this
search there seem to be no certain limits, either to the possible
success, or to the possible disappointment of human industry. In
the course of a century or two, it is possible that new mines may be
discovered, more fertile than any that have ever yet been known; and it
is just equally possible, that the most fertile mine then known may be
more barren than any that was wrought before the discovery of the mines
of America. Whether the one or the other of those two events may happen
to take place, is of very little importance to the real wealth and
prosperity of the world, to the real value of the annual produce of the
land and labour of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity of gold and
silver by which this annual produce could be expressed or represented,
would, no doubt, be very different; but its real value, the real
quantity of labour which it could purchase or command, would be
precisely the same. A shilling might, in the one case, represent no more
labour than a penny does at present; and a penny, in the other, might
represent as much as a shilling does now. But in the one case, he who
had a shilling in his pocket would be no richer than he who has a penny
at present; and in the other, he who had a penny would be just as rich
as he who has a shilling now. The cheapness and abundance of gold and
silver plate would be the sole advantage which the world could derive
from the one event; and the dearness and scarcity of those trifling
superfluities, the only inconveniency it could suffer from the other.




© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary