Essai sur la Nature du Commerce in Général (Essay on the Nature of Trade in General)

Cantillon, Richard
(1680-1734)
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Editor/Trans.
Henry Higgs, ed. and trans.
First Pub. Date
1730?
Publisher/Edition
London: Frank Cass and Co., Ltd.
Pub. Date
1959
Comments
Includes "Richard Cantillon and the Nationality of Political Economy," by W. Stanley Jevons (1881).
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Part I, Chapter XV

The Increase and Decrease of the Number of People in a State chiefly depend on the taste, the fashions, and the modes of living of the proprietors of land

I.XV.1

Experience shews that Trees, Plants and other Vegetables can be increased to any Quantity which the Extent of Ground laid out for them can support.

I.XV.2

The same Experience shews that all kinds of the Animal Creation are to be multiplied to any Quantity which the Land allotted to them can support. Horses, Cattle, Sheep can easily be multiplied up to the number that the Land will support. The fields which serve for this support may be improved by irrigation as in Milan. Hay may be saved and Cattle fed in sheds and raised in larger numbers than if they were left in the Fields. Sheep may be fed on Turnips, as in England, by which means an acre of land will go further for their nourishment than if it were pasture. In a word, we can multiply all sorts of Animals in such numbers as we wish to maintain even to infinity if we could find lands to infinity to nourish them; and the multiplication of Animals has no other bounds than the greater or less means allotted for their subsistence. It is not to be doubted that if all Land were devoted to the simple sustenance of Man the race would increase up to the number that the Land would support in the manner to be explained.

I.XV.3

There is no Country where Population is carried to a greater Height than in China. The common people are supported by Rice and Rice Water; they work almost naked and in the southern Provinces they have three plentiful harvests of Rice yearly, thanks to their great attention to Agriculture. The Land is never fallow and yields a hundredfold every year. Those who are clothed have generally Clothing of Cotton, which needs so little Land for its production that an Acre of Land, it seems, is capable of producing a Quantity full sufficient for the Clothing of five hundred grown-up Persons. The Chinese by the Principles of their Religion are obliged to marry, and bring up as many Children as their Means of Subsistence will afford. They look upon it as a Crime to lay Land out in Pleasure-Gardens or Parks, defrauding the Public of Maintenance. They carry Travellers in sedan Chairs, and save the work of Horses upon all tasks which can be performed by Men. Their number is incredible if the Relation of Voyages is to be depended upon, yet they are forced to destroy many of their Children in the Cradle when they apprehend themselves not to be able to bring them up, keeping only the number they are able to support. By hard and indefatigable Labour they draw from the Rivers an extraordinary quantity of Fish and from the Land all that is possible.

I.XV.4

Nevertheless when bad years come they starve in thousands in spite of the care of the Emperor who stores Rice for such contingencies. Numerous then as the people of China are, they are necessarily proportioned to their Means of Living and do not exceed the number the Country can support according to their standard of life; and on this footing a single Acre of Land will support many of them.

I.XV.5

On the other hand there is no Country where the increase of Population is more limited than among the savages in the interior parts of America. They neglect Agriculture, live in Woods, and on the Wild Beasts they find there. As their Forests destroy the Sweetness and Substance of the Earth there is little pasture for Animals, and since an Indian eats several Animals in a year, 50 or 100 acres supply only enough food for a single Indian.

I.XV.6

A small Tribe of these Indians will have 40 square leagues for its hunting ground. The wage regular and bitter wars over these boundaries, and always proportion their numbers to their means of support from the chase.

I.XV.7

The European cultivate the Land and draw Corn from it for their subsistence. The Wool of their sheep provides them with Clothing. Wheat is the grain on which most of them are fed, but some Peasants make their Bread of Rye, and in the north of Barley and Oats. The food of the Peasants and the People is not the same in all Countries of Europe, and Land is often different in quality and fertility.

I.XV.8

Most of the Land in Flanders and part of that in Lombardy yields 18 to 20 fold without lying idle; the Campagna of Naples yields still more. There are a few Properties in France, Spain, England and Germany which yield the same amount. Cicero tells us that the Land of Sicily in his time yielded tenfold, and the Elder Pliny says that the Leontine lands in Sicily yielded a hundred fold, those of Babylon a hundred and fifty, and some African lands a good deal more.

I.XV.9

Today Land in Europe yields on the average six times what is sown, so that five times the seed remains for the consumption of the People. Land usually rests one year in three, producing wheat the first year and barley the second.

I.XV.10

In the Supplement will be found estimates of the amount of Land required for the support of a Man according to the different assumptions of his Manner of Living. It will be seen that a Man who lives on Bread, Garlic and Roots, wears only hempen garments, coarse Linen, Wooden Shoes, and drinks only water, like many Peasants in the South of France, can live on the produce of an Acre and a half of Land of medium goodness, yielding a sixfold harvest and resting once in 3 years. On the other hand a grown-up Man who wears leather Shoes, Stockings, Woollen Cloth, who lives in a House and has a change of Linen, a Bed, Chairs, Table, and other necessaries, drinks moderately of Beer or Wine, eats every day Meat, Butter, Cheese, Bread, Vegetables, etc. sufficiently and yet moderately needs for all that the produce of 4 to 5 acres of land of medium quality. It is true that in these estimates nothing is allowed for the food of Horses except for the Plough and Carriage of Produce for ten Miles.

I.XV.11

History records that the first Romans each maintained his family on two journaux of Land, equal to one Paris acre and 330 square feet or thereabouts. They were almost naked, had no Wine or Oil, lay in the Straw, and had hardly any Comforts, but as they cultivated intensely the Land, which is fairly good around Rome, they drew from it plenty of Corn and of Vegetables.

I.XV.12

If the Proprietors of Land had at heart the increase of Population, if they encouraged the Peasants to marry young and bring up Children by promising to provide them with Subsistence, devoting their Land entirely to that purpose, they would doubtless increase the Population up to the point which the Land could support, according to the produce they allotted for each person whether an Acre and a Half or Four to Five Acres a head.

I.XV.13

But if instead of that the Prince, or the Proprietors of Land, cause the Land to be used for other purposes than the upkeep of the People: if by the Prices they offer in the Market for produce and Merchandise they determine the Farmers to employ the Land for other purposes than the Maintenance of Man (for we have seen that the Prices they offer in the Market and their consumption determine the use made of the Land just as if they cultivated it themselves) the People will necessarily diminish in number. Some will be forced to leave the country for lack of employment, others not seeing the necessary means of raising Children, will not marry or will only marry late, after having put aside somewhat for the support of the household.

I.XV.14

If the Proprietors of Land who live in the Country go to reside in the Cities far away from their Land, Horses must be fed for the transport into the City both of their food and that of all the Domestic Servants, Mechanicks and others whom their residence in the City attracts thither.

I.XV.15

The carriage of Wine from Burgundy to Paris often costs more than the Wine itself costs in Burgundy; and consequently the Land employed for the upkeep of the cart horses and those who look after them is more considerable than the Land which produces the Wine and supports those who have taken part in its production. The more Horses there are in a State the less food will remain for the People. The upkeep of Carriage horses, Hunters, or Chargers, often takes three or four Acres of Land.

I.XV.16

But when the Nobility and Proprietors of Land draw from Foreign Manufactures their Cloths, Silks, Laces, etc. and pay for them by sending to the Foreigner their native produce they diminish extraordinary the food of the People and increase that of Foreigners who often become Enemies of the State.

I.XV.17

If a Proprietor or Nobleman in Poland, to whom his Farmers pay yearly a Rent equal to about one third of the Produce of his Land, pleases to use the Cloths, Linens, etc. of Holland, he will pay for these Mechandises one half of the rent he receives and perhaps use the other half for the subsistence of his Family on other Products and rough Manufactures of Poland: but half his rent, on our supposition, corresponds to the sixth part of the Produce of his Land, and this sixth part will be carried away by the Dutch to whom the Farmers of Poland will deliver it in Corn, Wool, Hemp and other produce. Here is then a sixth part of the Land of Poland withdrawn from its people, to say nothing of the feeding of the Cart horses, Carriage Horses and Chargers in Poland, maintained by the Manner of Living of the Nobility there. Further if out of the two thirds of the Produce of the Land allotted to the Farmers there last imitating their Masters consume foreign Manufactures which they will also pay Foreigners for in raw Produce of Poland, there will be a good third of the produce of the Land in Poland abstracted from the Food of the People, and, what is worse, mostly sent to the Foreigner and often serving to support the Enemies of the State. If the Proprietors of Land and the Nobility in Poland would consume only the Manufactures of their own State, bad as they might be at the outset, they would soon become better, and would keep a great Number of their own People to work there, instead of giving this advantage to Foreigners: and if all States had the like care not to be the dupes of other States in matters of Commerce, each State would be considerable only in proportion to its Produce and the Industry of its People.

I.XV.18

If the Ladies of Paris are pleased to wear Brussels Lace, and if France pays for this Lace with Champagne wine, the product of a single Acre of Flax must be paid for with the product of 16,000 acres of land under vines, if my calculations are correct. This will be more fully explained elsewhere and the figures are shown in the Supplement. Suffice to say here that in this transaction a great amount of produce of the Land is withdrawn from the subsistence of the French, and that all the produce sent abroad, unless an equally considerable amount of produce be brought back in exchange, tends to diminish the number of People in the State.

I.XV.19

When I said that the Proprietors of Land might multiply the Population as far as the Land would support them, I assumed that most Men desire nothing better than to marry if they are set in a position to keep their Families in the same style as they are content to live themselves. That is, if a Man is satisfied with the produce of an Acre and a half of Land he will marry if the is sure of having enough to keep his Family in the same way. But if he is only satisfied with the produce of 5 to 10 Acres he will be in no hurry to marry unless he thinks he can bring up his Family in the same manner.

I.XV.20

In Europe the Children of the Nobility are brought up in affluence; and as the largest share of the Property is usually given to the Eldest sons, the younger Sons are in no hurry to marry. They usually live as Bachelors, either in the Army or in the Cloisters, but will seldom be fond unwilling to marry if they are offered Heiresses and Fortunes, or the means of supporting a Family on the footing which they have in view and without which they would consider themselves to make their Children wretched.

I.XV.21

In the lower classes of the State also there are Men who from pride and from reasons similar to those of the Nobility, prefer to live in celibacy and to spend on themselves the little that they have rather than settle down in family life. But most of them would gladly set up a Family if they could count upon keeping it up as they would wish: they would consider themselves to do an injustice to their Children if they brought them up to fall into a lower Class than themselves. Only a few Men in a State avoid marriage from sheer flightiness. All the lower orders wish to live and bring up Children who can live like themselves. When Labourers and Mechanicks do not marry it is because they wait till they save something to enable them to set up a household or to find some young woman who brings a little capital for that purpose, since they see every day others like them who for lack of such precaution start housekeeping and fall into the most frightful poverty, being obliged to deprive themselves of their own food to nourish their Children.

I.XV.22

From the observations of M. Halley, at Breslaw in Silesia, it is found that of all the Females capable of child-bearing, from 16 to 45 years of age, not one in six actually bears a child every year, while, says M. Halley, there ought to be at least 4 or 6 who should have children every year, without including those who are barren or have still-births. The reason why four Women out of six do not bear children every year is that they cannot marry because of the discouragements and difficulties in their way. A young Woman takes care not to become a Mother if she is not married; she cannot marry unless she finds a Man who is ready to run the risk of it. Most of the People in a State are hired or are Undertakers; most are dependent and live in uncertainty whether they will find by their Labour or their Undertakings the means of supporting their household on the footing they have in view. Therefore they do not all marry, or marry so late that of six Women, or at least four, who should produce a child every year there is actually only one in six who becomes a Mother.

I.XV.23

If the Proprietors of Land help to support the Families, a single generation suffices to push the increase of population as far as the Produce of the Land will supply means of subsistence. Children do not require so much of this produce as grown-up persons. Both can live on more or less according to their consumption. The Northern People, where the Land produces little, have been known to live on so little produce that they have sent out Colonists and swarms of Men to invade the Lands of the South and destroy its Inhabitants to appropriate their Land. According to the different Manner of Living, 400,000 people might subsist on the same produce of the Land which ordinarily supports but 100,000. A Man who lives upon the Produce of an Acre and a half of Land, may be stronger and stouter than he who spends the Produce of five or ten Acres; it therefore seems pretty clear that the Number of Inhabitants of a State depends on the Means allotted them of obtaining their Support; and as this Means of Subsistence arises from the Method of cultivating the soil, and this Method depends chiefly on the Taste, Humours and Manner of Living of the Proprietors of Land, the Increase and Decrease of Population also stand on the same Foundation.

I.XV.24

The Increase of Population can be carried furthest in the Countries where the people are content to live the most poorly and to consume the least produce of the soil. In Countries where all the Peasants and Labourers are accustomed to eat Meat and drink Wine, Beer, etc. so many Inhabitants cannot be supported.

I.XV.25

Sir Wm Petty, and after him Mr Davenant, Inspector of the Customs in England, seem to depart from nature when they try to estimate the propagation of the race by progressive generations from Adam, the first Father. Their calculations seem to be purely imaginary and drawn up at hazard. On the basis of what they have seen of the actual birth rate in certain districts, how could they explain the Decrease of those innumerable People formerly found in Asia, Egypt, etc. and even in Europe? If seventeen centuries ago there were 26 millions of people in Italy, now reduced to 6 millions at most, how can it be determined by the progressions of Mr King that England which today contains 5 or 6 millions of Inhabitants will probably have 13 millions in a certain number of years? We see daily that Englishmen, in general, consume more of the produce of the Land than their Fathers did, and this is the real reason why there are fewer Inhabitants than in the past.

I.XV.26

Men multiply like Mice in a barn if they have unlimited Means of Subsistence; and the English in the Colonies will become more numerous in proportion in three generations than they would be in thirty in England, because in the Colonies they find for cultivation new tracts of land from which they drive the Savages.

I.XV.27

In all Countries at all times Men have waged wars for the Land and the Means of subsistence. When wars have destroyed or diminished the Population of a Country, the Savages and civilised Nations soon repopulate it in times of peace; especially when the Prince and the Proprietors of Land lend their encouragement.

I.XV.28

A State which has conquered several Provinces may, by Tribute imposed on the vanquished, acquire an increase of subsistence for its own People. The Romans drew a great part of their subsistence from Egypt, Sicily and Africa and that is why Italy then contained so many Inhabitants.

I.XV.29

A State where Mines are found, having Manufactures which do not require much of the produce of the land to send them into foreign Countries, and drawing from them in exchange plentiful merchandise and produce of the land, acquires an increased fund for the subsistence of its Subjects.

I.XV.30

The Dutch exchange their Labour in Navigation, Fishing or Manufactures principally with Foreigners, for the products of their Land. Otherwise Holland could not support of itself half its Population. England buys from abroad considerable amounts of Timber, Hemp and other materials or products of the soil and consumes much Wine for which she pays in Minerals, Manufactures, etc. That saves the English a great quantity of the products of their soil. Without these advantages the People of England, on the footing of the expense of living there, could not be so numerous as they are. The Coal Mines save them several millions of Acres of Land which would otherwise be needed to grow timber.

I.XV.31

But all these advantages are refinements and exceptional cases which I mention only incidentally. The natural and constant way of increasing Population in a State is to find employment for the People there, and to make the Land serve for the production of their Means of Support.

I.XV.32

It is also a question outside of my subject whether it is better to have a great multitude of Inhabitants, poor and badly provided, than a smaller number, much more at their ease: a million who consume the produce of 6 acres per head or 4 millions who live on the product of an Acre and a half.

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Part I, Chapter XVI

The more Labour there is in a State the more naturally rich the State is esteemed

I.XVI.1

In a long calculation worked out in the Supplement it is shewn that the Labour of 25 grown persons suffices to provide 100 others, also grown up, with all the necessaries of life according to the European standard. In these estimates it is true the Food, Clothing, Housing, etc. are coarse and rather elementary, but there is ease and plenty. It may be assumed that a good third of the People of a State are too young or too old for daily work and that another sixth are Proprietors of Land, Sick, or Undertakers of different sorts who do not by the Labour of their hands, contribute to the different needs of Men. That makes half the People without work, or at least without the work in question. So if 25 persons do all the work needed for the maintenance of a hundred others, there remain 25 persons out of the hundred who are capable of working but would have nothing to do.

I.XVI.2

The Soldiers, and the Domestic Servants in well-to-do families, will form part of these 25; and if all the others are busied in working up by additional labour the things necessary for life, like making fine linen, fine cloth, etc. the State will be deemed rich in proportion to this increase in work, though it add nothing to the quantity of things needed for the subsistence and maintenance of Man.

I.XVI.3

Labour gives an additional relish to food and drink. A fork, a knife, etc. nicely wrought, are more esteemed than those roughly and hastily made. The same may be said of a House, a Bed, a Table and everything needed for the comfort of life.

I.XVI.4

It is true that it is of little difference in a State whether People are accustomed to wear coarse or fine clothes if both are equally lasting, and whether People eat nicely or coarsely if they have enough and are in good health, since Drink, Food, Clothing, etc. are equally consumed whether fine or coarse, and that nothing is left in the State of this sort of wealth.

I.XVI.5

But it is always true to say that the States where fine Cloths, fine Linen, etc. are worn, and where the Feeding is dainty and delicate, are richer and more esteemed than those where these things are ruder, and even that the States where one sees more People living in the Manner of the first named are more highly esteemed than those where one sees fewer in Proportion.

I.XVI.6

But if the 25 persons in a hundred of whom we have spoken were employed to produce permanent commodities, to draw from the Mines Iron, Lead, Tin, Copper, etc. and work them up into Tools and Instruments for the use of Man, bowls, plates and other useful objects much more durable than earthenware, the State will not only appear to be richer for it but will be so in reality. It will be so especially if these people are employed in drawing from the Earth Gold and Silver which Metals are not only durable but so to speak permanent, which fire itself cannot destroy, which are generally accepted as the Measure of Value, and which can always be exchanged for any of the necessaries of Life: and if these Inhabitants work to draw Gold and Silver into a State in exchange for the Manufactures and Work which they produce and send abroad, their Labour will be equally useful and will in reality improve the State.

I.XVI.7

The Point which seems to determine the comparative greatness of States is their reserve Stock above the yearly consumption, like Magazines of Cloth, Linen, Corn, etc. to answer in bad years, or war. And as Gold and Silver can always buy these things, even from the Enemies of the State, Gold and Silver are the true reserve Stock of a State, and the larger or smaller actual quantity of this Stock necessarily determines the comparative greatness of Kingdoms and States.

I.XVI.8

If it is the custom to draw Gold and Silver from abroad by exporting merchandises and produce of the State, such as Corn, Wine, Wool, etc. this will not fail to enrich the State at the cost of a decrease of the Population; but if Gold and Silver be attracted from abroad in exchange for the Labour of the People, such as Manufactures and articles which contain little of the produce of the soil, this will enrich the State in a useful and essential manner. In a great State, indeed, the 25 persons in a Hundred of whom we have spoken, cannot be employed to make articles for foreign consumption. A million Men will make more Cloth, for example, than will be consumed annually in all the mercantile World, because the greater number of People in every country is always clothed from the raw material of the Country, and there will seldom be found in any State 100,000 persons employed upon Clothing for Foreigners. This is shown in the Supplement with regard to England, which of all the Nations of Europe supplies most cloth to Foreigners.

I.XVI.9

In order that the consumption of the Manufactures of a State should become considerable in foreign parts, these Manufactures must be made good and valuable by a large consumption in the interior of the State. It is needful to discourage all foreign Manufactures and to give plenty of employment to the Inhabitants.

I.XVI.10

If enough employment cannot be found to occupy the 25 persons in a hundred upon work useful and profitable to the State, I see no objection to encouraging employment which serves only for ornament or amusement. The State is not considered less rich for a thousand toys which serve to trick out the ladies or even men, or are used in games and diversions, than it is for useful and serviceable objects. Diogenes, at the Siege of Corinth, is said to have fell a rolling his tub that he might not seem idle while all others were at work; and we have today Societies of Men and Women occupied in work and exercise as useless to the State as that of Diogenes. How little soever the labour of a Man supplies ornament or even amusement in a State it is worth while to encourage it unless the Man can find a way to employ himself usefully.

I.XVI.11

It is always the inspiration of the Proprietors of Land which encourages or discourages the different occupations of the People and the different kinds of Labour which they invent.

I.XVI.12

The example of the Prince, followed by his Court, is generally capable of determining the inspiration and tastes of the other Proprietors of Land, and the example of these last naturally influences all the lower ranks. A Prince, then, without doubt is able by his own example and without any constraint to give such a turn as he likes to the labour of his subjects.

I.XVI.13

If each Proprietor in a State had only a little piece of Land, like that which is usually leased to a single Farmer, there would be hardly any Cities. The People would be more numerous and the State very rich if every Proprietor employed on some useful work the inhabitants supported on his Land.

I.XVI.14

But when the Nobles have great landed Possessions, they of necessity bring about Luxury and Idleness. Whether an Abbot at the head of a Hundred Monks live on the Produce of several fine Estates, or a Nobleman with 50 Domestic Servants, and Horses kept only for his service, live on these Estates, would be indifferent to the State if it could remain in constant peace.

I.XVI.15

But a Nobleman with his Retinue and his Horses is useful to the State in time of War; he can always be useful in the Magistracy and the keeping of order in the State in peace time; and in every case he is a great ornament to the Country, while the Monks are, as People say, neither useful nor ornamental in peace or war on this side of heaven.

I.XVI.16

The Convents of Mendicant Friars are much more pernicious to a State than those of the closed Orders. These last usually do no more harm than to occupy Estates which might serve to supply the State with Officers and Magistrates, while the Mendicants who are themselves without useful employment, often interrupt and hinder the Labour of other People. They take from poor people in charities the subsistence which ought to fortify them for their Labour. They cause them to lose much time in useless conversation, not to speak of those who intrigue themselves into Families and those who are vicious. Experience shews that the Countries which have embraced Protestantism and have neither Monks nor Mendicants have become visibly more powerful. They have also the advantage of having suppressed a great number of Holy Days when no work is done in Roman Catholic countries, and which diminish the labour of the People by about an eighth part of the year.

I.XVI.17

If it were desired to make use of everything in a State it might be possible, it seems, to diminish the number of Mendicants by incorporating them into the Monasteries as vacancies or deaths occur there, without forbidding these retreats to those who can give no evidence of their skill in speculative Sciences, who are capable of advancing the practical Arts, i.e. in some section of Mathematics. The celibacy of Churchmen is not so disadvantageous as is popularly supposed, as is shewn in the preceding Chapter, but their Idleness is very injurious.

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Part I, Chapter XVII

Of Metals and Money, and especially of Gold and Silver

I.XVII.1

As Land produces more or less Corn according to its fertility and the Labour spent upon it, so the Mines of Iron, Lead, Tin, Gold, Silver, etc. produce more or less of these Metals according to the richness of the Mines and the quantity and quality of the Labour spent upon them, in digging, draining, smelting, refining, etc. Work in Silver Mines is dear on account of the mortality it causes, since rarely more than five or six years are spent in that labour.

I.XVII.2

The real or intrinsic Value of Metals is like everything else proportionable to the Land and Labour that enters into their production. The outlay on the Land for this production is considerable only so far as the Owner of the Mine can obtain a profit from the work of the Miners when the veins are unusually rich. The Land needed for the subsistence of the Miners and Workers, that is the Mining Labour, is often the principal expense and the Ruin of the Proprietor.

I.XVII.3

The Market Value of Metals, as of other Merchandise or Produce, is sometimes above, sometimes below, the intrinsic Value, and varies with their plenty or scarcity according to the demand.

I.XVII.4

If the Proprietors of Land and the lower orders in a State who imitate them, rejected the use of Tin and Copper, wrongly supposing that they are injurious to health, and if they all made use of dishes and utensils of earthenware, these Metals would be at a very low price in the Markets and the Work that was carried on to extract them from the Mine would be discontinued. But as these metals are found useful, and are employed in the service of life, they will always have a Market Value corresponding to their plenty or rarity and the demand for them; and they will always be mined to replace what is lost by daily use.

I.XVII.5

Iron is not merely serviceable for the daily use of common life but may be said to be in a certain sense necessary; and if the Americans, who did not make use of it before the discovery of their Continent, had found Mines of it and known how to use it, they would doubtless have laboured to produce it at any cost.

I.XVII.6

Gold and Silver are capable of serving not only the same purpose as Tin and Copper but most of the purposes of Lead and Iron. They have this further advantage over other metals that they are not consumed by fire and are so durable that they may be esteemed permanent bodies. It is not surprising, therefore, that Men who found the other metals useful should have esteemed Gold and Silver even before they are used in exchange. The Romans prized them from the foundation of Rome and yet only used them as money 500 years later. Perhaps all other Nations did the like and only adopted these Metals as Money long after using them for other purposes. However we find from the oldest historians that from time immemorial gold and silver were used as money in Egypt and Asia, and we learn in the Book of Genesis that silver monies were made in the time of Abraham.

I.XVII.7

Let us suppose that Silver was first found in a Mine of Mount Niphates in Mesopotamia. It is natural to think that one or more Proprietors of Land, finding this metal beautiful and useful, were the first to use it, and willingly encouraged the Miner or Undertaker to extract more of it from the Mine, giving him in return for his Work and that of his Assistants so much of the Produce of the Land as they needed for their Maintenance. This Metal becoming more and more esteemed in Mesopotamia, if the large Landowners bought ewers of silver, the lower classes, according to their means or savings, might buy silver cups; and the Undertaker of the Mine, seeing a constant demand for his Merchandise, gave it without doubt a Value proportionable to its quality or weight against the other products or merchandise which he took in exchange. While everybody looked on this Metal as a precious and durable object and strove to own a few pieces of it, the Undertaker, who alone could supply it, was in a manner master to demand in exchange an arbitrary quantity of other produce and Merchandise.

I.XVII.8

Suppose now that on the further side of the River Tigris, and therefore outside Mesopotamia, a new Silver Mine is discovered, of which the veins are incomparably richer and larger than those of Mount Niphates, and that the working of this new Mine which was easily drained was less laborious than that of the first.

I.XVII.9

The Undertaker of this new Mine was naturally in a position to supply silver much cheaper than the Undertaker of Mount Niphates, and the People of Mesopotamia who wished to have pieces and objects of silver would find it more advantageous to export their Merchandise and give it to the Undertaker of the new Mine in exchange for Silver than to take it from the original Undertaker. This last, finding a smaller demand, would of necessity reduce his price; but the new Undertaker lowering his price in proportion the first Adventurer would be obliged to stop his output, and then the price of Silver in exchange for other Merchandise and Produce would be necessarily fixed by that which was put upon it at the new Mine. Silver then cost less to the People beyond Tigris than to those of Mesopotamia who had to bear the cost of a long carriage of their Merchandise and produce to obtain Silver.

I.XVII.10

It is easy to perceive that when several Silver Mines were found and the Proprietors of Land had taken a fancy to this Metal, they were imitated by the other Classes, and that the pieces and fragments of silver, even when not worked up, were sought after eagerly, because nothing was easier than to make such articles from them as were desired, according to their quantity and weight. As this metal was esteemed at its cost value, at least, a few people who possessed some of it, finding themselves in need, could pawn it to borrow the things they wanted, and even to sell it later outright. Thence arose the custom of fixing its value in proportion to its quantity or weight as against all products and merchandise. But as silver can be combined with Iron, Lead, Tin, Copper, etc. which are not such scarce Metals and are mined at less expense, the exchange of Silver was subject to much fraud, and this caused several Kingdoms to establish Mints in order to certify by a public coinage the true quantity of silver that each coin contains and to return to individuals who bring bars or ingots of Silver to it the same quantity in coins bearing a stamp or certificate of the true quantity of Silver they contain.

I.XVII.11

The costs of these certificates or coinage are sometimes paid by the Public, or by the Prince,—the method followed in ancient times at Rome and today in England; sometimes those who take silver to be coined pay for minting as in the custom in France.

I.XVII.12

Pure Silver is hardly ever found in the Mines. The Ancients did not know the art of refining to perfection. They always made their silver coins of fine silver, and yet those which remain to us of the Greeks, Romans, Jews and Asiatics are never perfectly pure. Today there is more skill, the secret of making silver pure has been discovered. The different methods of refining it are not part of my subject. Many authors have treated of it, M. Boizard among others. I will only observe that there is a good deal of expense in refining silver and for this reason an ounce of fine silver is generally preferred to two ounces which contain one half of copper or other alloy. It is expensive to separate the alloy and extract the one ounce of pure silver which is in these two ounces, while by simple melting any other metal can be combined with silver in any proportion desired. If Copper is sometimes used as an alloy to fine silver it is only to render it more malleable and more suitable for the objects made of it. But in the valuation of all Silver the Copper or Alloy is reckoned at nothing and only the amount of fine pure silver is considered. For this reason an Assay is always made to ascertain the amount of pure silver.

I.XVII.13

Assaying is merely refining a little piece of a bar of silver, for example, to find how much pure silver it contains and to judge the whole bar by this small sample. A small portion of the bar, 12 grains for example, is cut off and nicely weighed in balances which are so accurate that a thousandth part of a grain will sometimes turn the scale. Then the sample is refined by aquafortis or by fire and the copper or alloy separated. When the Silver is pure it is weighed again in the same balance and if it then weighs 11 grains instead of 12 the Assayer says that the bar is 11 parts fine, i.e. it contains 11 parts of pure silver and 1 of copper or alloy. This will be more easily understood by those who have the curiosity to see assays carried out. There is nothing mysterious about it. Gold is assayed in the same way, with this difference only that the degrees of fineness of Gold are divided into 24 parts called Carats, since Gold is more precious; and these Carats are divided into 32 parts, while the degrees of fineness of silver are only divided into twelfths, called Deniers, and these are divided into 24 grains apiece.

I.XVII.14

Usage has conferred upon Gold and Silver the title Intrinsic Value, to designate and signify the quantity of true gold or silver contained in a bar; but in this Essay I have always used the term Intrinsic Value to signify the amount of Land and Labour which enter into Production, not having found any term more suitable to express my meaning. I mention this only to avoid misunderstanding. When Gold and Silver are not in question the term will always hold good without any confusion.

I.XVII.15

We have seen that the metals such as Gold, Silver, Iron, etc. serve several purposes and have a value proportionable to the Land and Labour which enter into their Production. We shall see in Part II of this essay that Men have been forced of necessity to employ a common measure to find in their dealings the proportion and the value of the Products and Merchandise they wished to exchange. The only question is what product or Merchandise would be most suitable for this common measure, and whether it has not been Necessity rather that Fancy which has given this preference to Gold, Silver and Copper which are generally in use today for this purpose.

I.XVII.16

Ordinary products like Corn, Wine, Meat, etc. have a real value and serve the needs of life, but they are all perishable and difficult to be transported, and therefore hardly suitable to serve as a common measure.

I.XVII.17

Merchandise such as Cloth, Linen, Leather, etc. is perishable also and cannot be subdivided without in some sort changing their Value for the service of Man. Like raw produce they cost a good deal for carriage; they even cause expense for storage, and consequently are unsuitable for a common measure.

I.XVII.18

Diamonds and other precious stones, even if they had no intrinsic value and were esteemed only from fancy, would be suitable for a common measure if they were not susceptible of imitation and if they could be divided without loss. With these defects and that of being unserviceable in use they cannot serve as a common measure.

I.XVII.19

Iron, which is always useful and fairly durable would not serve badly in default of a better. It is consumed by fire, and is too bulky owing to its quantity. It was used from the time of Lycurgus till the Peloponnesian War: but as its value was necessarily based intrinsically, or in proportion to the Land and Labour which entered into its production, a great quantity of it was needed for small value. It is curious that its quality was spoiled by Vinegar to make it useless for service and to keep it for exchange only. Thus it could serve the austere Spartans alone, and could not continue to do so even with them as soon as they extended their communication with other countries. To ruin the Spartans it needed only to find rich Iron Mines, to make Money like theirs, and to draw in exchange their products and Merchandise whilst they could get nothing from abroad for their spoiled iron. At that time they did not concern themselves with any foreign trade, but only with War.

I.XVII.20

Lead and Tin have the same disadvantage of bulk as iron and are consumable by fire, but in case of need they would not do badly for exchange if copper were not more suitable and durable.

I.XVII.21

Copper alone served as money to the Romans until 484 A.U.C., and in Sweden it is still used even in large payments: but it is too bulky for very considerable payments, and the Swedes themselves prefer payment in gold or silver rather than in Copper.

I.XVII.22

In the American Colonies Tobacco, Sugar, and Cocoa have been used as Money: but these commodities are too bulky, perishable, and of unequal quality: they are therefore hardly suitable to serve as money or a common measure of value.

I.XVII.23

Gold and Silver alone are of small volume, equal goodness, easily transported, divisible without loss, convenient to keep, beautiful and brilliant in the articles made of them and durable almost to eternity. All who have used other articles as Money return to these as soon as they can get enough of them for exchange. It is only in the smallest purchases that gold and silver are unsuitable. Gold or even silver coins of the value of a liard or a denier would be too small to be handled easily. It is said that the Chinese, in small transactions, cut off little pieces with scissors from their plates of silver, and weighed the pieces. But since their trade with Europe they have begun to use copper for such occasions.

I.XVII.24

It is then not surprising that all Countries have arrived at using gold and silver as money or a common measure of value and copper for small payments. Utility and Need have decided them, and not Fancy or Consent. Silver requires much Labour and dear Labour for its production. Silver Miners are highly paid because they rarely live more than five or six years at this work, which causes a high mortality: and so a little silver coin corresponds to as much Land and Labour as a large copper coin.

I.XVII.25

Money or the common measure of Value must correspond in fact and reality in terms of Land and Labour to the articles exchanged for it. Otherwise it would have only an imaginary Value. If for example a Prince or a Republic gave currency in the State to something which had not such a real and intrinsic value, not only would the other States refuse to accept it on that footing but the Inhabitants themselves would reject it when they perceived its lack of real value. When towards the end of the first Punic War the Romans wished to give the copper as, weighing two ozs., the same value as the as of 1 lb. or 12 oz. had before, it could not long be maintained in exchange. The History of all times shews that when Princes have debased their money, keeping it at the same nominal value, all raw produce and manufacturers have gone up in price in proportion to the debasement of the coinage.

I.XVII.26

Mr Locke says that the consent of Mankind has given its value to Gold and Silver. This cannot be doubted since absolute Necessity had no share in it. It is the same consent which has given and does give every day a value to Lace, Linen, fine Cloths, Copper, and other Metals. Man could subsist without any of these things, but it must not be concluded that they have but an imaginary value. They have a value proportionable to the Land and Labour which enter into their Production. Gold and Silver, like other merchandise and raw produce, can only be produced at costs roughly proportionable to the value set upon them, and whatever Man produces by Labour, this Labour must furnish his maintenance. It is the great principle that one hears every day from the mouths of the humble classes who have no part in our speculations, and who live by their Labour or their Undertakings. "Everybody must live."

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