Imágenes de páginas

which they received, they judged whether it was worth while to make a settlement there, or if the country was worth the conquering. Plano Carpino, a monk sentambassadorfrom the king of France to one of the sons of the famous Gengis Khan, says, that the Tartars used frequently to ask him, if there was plenty of sheep and oxen in the kingdom of France? Their inquiry had the same object with that of the Spaniards. They wanted to know if the country was rich enough to be worth theconquering. Among the Tartars, as among all other nations of shepherds, who are generally ignorant of the use of money,

cattle are the instruments of commerce and the measures of value. Wealth, therefore, according to them, consisted in cattle, as, according to the Spaniards, it consisted in gold and silver. Of the two, the Tartar notion perhaps, was the nearest to the truth.

Mr. Locke remarks a distinction between money and other moveable goods. All other moveable goods, he says, are of so consumable a nature, that the wealth which consists in them cannot be much dependedon; and a nation which abounds in them one year may, without any exportation, but merely

their own waste and extravagance, be in great want of them the next. Money, on the contrary, is a steady friend, which though it may travelabout from hand to hand, yet if it can be kept from going out of the country, is not very liable to be wasted and consumed. Goldand silver, therefore, are, according to him, the most solid and substantial part of the moveable wealth of a nation; and to multiply those metals ought, he thinks, upon that account, to be the great object of its political economy.


Others admit, that if a nation could be separated from all the world, it would be of no consequence how much, or how little money circulated in it. The consumable goods, which were circulated by mcans of this money, would only be exchanged for a greater or a smaller number of pieces; but thereal wealth or poverty of the country, they allow, would depend altogether upon the abundance or scarcity of those consumable goods. But it is otherwise, they think, with countries which have connections with foreign nations, and which are obliged to carry on foreign wars, and to maintain fleets and armies in distant countries. This, they say, cannot be done, but by sending abroad money to pay them with ; anda nation cannot send much money abroad, unless it has a good deal at home. Every such nation, therefore, must endeavour, in time of peace, to accumulate gold and silver, that, when occasion requires, it may have wherewithal to carry on foreign wars.

In consequence of these popular notions, all the different nations of Europe have studied, though to little purpose, every possible means of accumulating gold and silver in their respective countries. Spain and Portugal, the proprietors of the principal mines which supply Europe with those metals, have either prohibited their exportation under the severest penalties,or subjected it to a considerable duty. The like prohibition seems anciently to have made a part of the policy of most other European nations. It is even to be found, where we should least of all expect to find it, in some old Scotch acts of Parliament, which forbid, under heavy penalties, the carrying gold or silver forth of the kingdom. The like policy anciently took place both in France and England,

When those countries become commercial, the merchants found this prohibition, upon many occasions,extremely inconvenient. They could frequent. ly buy more advantageously with gold and silver, than with any other commodity, the foreign goods which they wanted, either toimport into their own, or to carry to some other foreign country. They remonstrated, therefore, against this prohibition, as hurtful to trade.

They represented, first, that the exportation of gold and silver, in order to purchase foreign goods, did not always diminish the quantity of those metals in the kingdom; that, on the contrary, it might frequently increase the quantity : because, if the consumption of foreign goods was not thereby increased in the country, those goods might bere-exported to foreign countries,and being there sold for a large profit, might bring back much more treasure than was originally sent out to purchase them. Mr. Mun compares


operation of foreign trade to the seed-time and harvest of agriculture. If we only behold,' says he, “the actions of the husbandman in the seed-time, when ho casteth away much good corn into the ground, we shall account him rather a madman than a husbandman. But when we consider his labours in the harvest, which is the end of his endeavours, we shall find the worth and plentiful increase of his actions.'

They represented, secondly, that this prohibition could not hinder the exportation of gold and silver, which, on account of the smallness of their bulk in proportion to their value, could easily be smuggled abroad. That this exportation could only be preyented by a proper attention to what they called the

balance of trade. That when the country exported to a greater value than it imported, a balance became due to it from foreign nations, which was necessarily paid to it in gold and silver, and thereby increased the quantity of those metals in the kingdom. But that when it imported to a greater value than it exported, a contrary balance became due to foreign nations, which was necessarily paid to them in the same manner, and thereby diminished that quantity: that in this case to prohibit the exportation of those metals, could not prevent it, but only, by making it more dangerous, render it more expensive ; that the exchange was thereby turned more against the country which owed the balance, than it otherwise might have been ; the merchant, who purchased a bill upon the foreign country, being obliged to pay the banker who sold it, not only for the natural risk, trouble, and expence of sending the money thither,but for the extraordinary risk arising from the prohibition. But that the more the exchange was against any country, the more the balance of trade became necessarilyagainst it; the money of that country becoming necessarily of so much less value, in comparison with that of the country to which the balance was due. That if the exchange between England and Holland, for example, was five per cent. against England, it would require 105 ounces of silver in England to purchase a bill for 100 ounces of silver in Holland : that 105 ounces of silver in England, therefore, would be worth only 100 ounces of silver in Holland, and would purchase only a proportionable quantity of Dutch goods : but that 100 ounces of silver in Holland, on the contrary, would be worth. 105 ounces in England, and would purchase a pro



portionable quantity of English goods: that the English goods which were sold to Holland would be sold so much cheaper, and the Dutch goods which were sold to England so much dearer, by the difference of the exchange : that the one would draw so much less Dutch money to England, and the other so much more English money to Holland, as this difference amounted to: and that the balance of trade, therefore, would necessarily be so much more against England, and would require a greater balance of gold and silver to be exported to Holland.

Those arguments were partly solid and partly sophistical. They were solid so far as they asserted that the exportation of gold and silver in trade might frequently be advantageous to the country. They were solid, too, in asserting that no prohibition could prevent their exportation, when private people found any advantage inexporting them. But they were sophistical in supposing, that either to preserve or to augment the quantity of those metals required more the attention of government, than to preserve or to augment the quantity of any other useful commodities, which the freedom of trade, without any such attention, never fails to supply in the proper quantity. They were sophistical too, perhaps, in asserting that the high price of exchange necessarily increased, what they called the unfavourable balance of trade, or occasioned the exportation of a greater quantity of gold and silver. That high price, indeed, was extremely disadvantageous to the merchants who had any money to pay in forcign countries. They paid so much dearer for the bills which their bankers granted them upon those countries. But though the


« AnteriorContinuar »