Page images

one ounce of silver will buy, i. e. is of equal value to, one bushel of wheat, two ounces of silver will buy two bushels of the same wheat, i. e. has double the value.

Hence it is evident, that an equal quantity of silver is always of equal value to an equal quantity of silver.

This, common sense, as well as the market, teaches us; for silver being all of the same nature and goodness, having all the same qualities, it is impossible, but it should in the same quantity have the same value; for if a less quantity of any commodity be allowed to be equal in value to a greater quantity of the same sort of commodity, it must be for some good quality it has, which the other wants. But silver to silver has no such difference.

Here it will be asked, is not some silver finer than other?

I answer, one mass of mixed metal not discerned by the eye to be any thing but silver, and therefore called silver, may have a less mixture of baser metal in it than another, and so in common speech is said to be finer silver; so ducatoons, having a less mixture of copper in them than our English coin has, are said to be finer silver. But the truth is, the silver that is in each is equally fine, as will appear when the baser metal is separate from it; and it is of this pure, or finer silver, I must be understood, when I mention silver; not re-. garding the copper or lead, which may chance to be mixed with it. For example: Take an ounce of silver, and one fourth of an ounce of copper, and melt them together; one may say of the whole mass, that it is not fine silver; but it is true, there is an ounce of fine silver in it; and though this mass, weighing one ounce and a quarter, be not of equal value to one ounce and a quarter of fine silver, yet the ounce of fine silver in it is, when separate from the copper, of equal value to any other ounce of silver.

By this measure of commerce, viz. the quantity of silver, men measure the value of all other things. Thus to measure what the value of lead is to wheat, and


of either of them to a certain sort of linen cloth, the quantity of silver that each is valued at, or sells for, needs only be known; for if a yard of cloth be sold for half an ounce of silver, a bushel of wheat for one ounce, and a hundred weight of lead for two ounces; any one presently sees and says, that a bushel of wheat is double the value of a yard of that cloth, and but half the value of an hundred weight of lead.

Some are of opinion, that this measure of commerce, like all other measures, is arbitrary, and may at pleasure be varied, by putting more or fewer grains of silver, in pieces of a known denomination, v. g. by making a penny, or a shilling lighter, or heavier in silver, in a country where these are known denominations of pieces of silver money. But they will be of another mind, when they consider, that silver is a measure of a nature quite different from all other. The yard or quart men measure by, may rest indifferently in the buyer's or seller's, or a third person's hands, it matters not whose it is. But it is not so in silver: it is the thing bargained for, as well as the measure of the bargain; and in commerce passes from the buyer to the seller, as being in such a quantity equivalent to the thing sold: and so it not only measures the value of the commodity it is applied to, but is given in exchange for it, as of equal value. But this it does (as is visible) only by its quantity, and nothing else; for it must be remembered, that silver is the instrument, as well as measure of commerce, and is given in exchange for the things traded for: and, every one desiring to get as much as he can of it, for any commodity he sells, it is by the quantity of silver he gets for it in exchange, and by nothing else, that he measures the value of the commodity he sells.

The coining of silver, or making money of it, is the ascertaining of its quantity by a public mark, the better to fit it for commerce.

In coined silver or money, there are these three things which are wanting in other silver. 1. Pieces of exactly the same weight and fineness. 2. A stamp set on those


pieces by the public authority of that country. 3. A known denomination given to these pieces by the same authority.

The stamp is a mark, and, as it were, a public voucher, that a piece of such denomination is of such a weight, and of such a fineness, i. e. has so much silver in it.

That precise weight and fineness, by law appropriated to the pieces of each denomination, is called the standard. Fine silver is silver without the mixture of


baser metal.

Alloy is baser metal mixed with it.

The fineness of any metal appearing to be silver, and so called, is the proportion of silver in it, compared with what there is in it of baser metals.

The fineness of standard silver in England, is eleven parts silver and one part copper, near : or, to speak more exactly, the proportion of silver, to copper, is as 1.11 to 9. Whatever piece, or mass, has in it, of baser metal, above the proportion of 9 to 111, is worse, or coarser than standard. Whatever mass of metal has a less proportion than 9 to 111, of baser metal in it, is better, or finer than standard.

Since silver is the thing sought for, and would better serve for the measure of commerce, if it were unmixed, it will possibly be asked, “why any mixture of baser , ” metal is allowed in money, and what use is there of " such alloy, which serves to make the quantity of 6 silver less known in the several coins of different " countries?”

Perhaps it would have been better for commerce in general, and more convenient for all their subjects, if the princes every-where, or at least in this part of the world, would at first have agreed on the fineness of the standard to have been just one-twelfth alloy, in round numbers; without those minuter fractions which are to be found in the alloy of inost of the coin of the several distinct dominions of this part of the world.

Which broken proportion of baser metal to silver, in the stand


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

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

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

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

If this security goes not along with the public stamp, coining is labour to no purpose, and puts no difference between coined money, and uncoined bullion. This is so obvious, that I think no government, where money is coined, ever overlooks it; and therefore the laws every where, when the quantity of silver has been lessened in any piece carrying the public stamp, by clipping, washing, rounding, &c. have taken off the authority of the public stamp, and declared it not to be lawful money.

This is known to be so in England, and every one may not only refuse any money bearing the public stamp, if it be clipped, or any ways robbed of the due weight of its silver, but be tltat offers it in payment is liable to indictment, fine and imprisonment.


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

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

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

The reason why it should not be changed is this; because the public authority is guarantee for the performance of all legal contracts. But men are absolved froin the performance of their legal contracts, if the quantity of silver under settled and legal denominations be altered; as is evident, if borrowing iool. or 400 ounces of silver, to repay the same quantity of silver (for that is understood by the same sum, and so the law warrants it) or taking a lease of lands for years to come, at the like rent of 100l. they shall pay both the one and the other, in money coined under the same denominations, with one-fifth less silver in it, than at the time of the bargain; the landlord here and creditor are each defrauded of twenty per cent. of what they contracted for, and is their due. And I ask, how much juster it would be thus to dissolve the contracts they had made, than to make a law, that from henceforth all landlords and creditors should be paid their past debts, and the rents for leases already made, in clipped money, twenty per cent. - lighter than it should be ? Both ways they lose twenty per cent of their due, and with equal justice,


« PreviousContinue »