Imágenes de páginas

and in fact rendered it, a legal tender of payment for the full value for which it was issued. But allowing the colony security to be perfectly good, £100; payable fifteen years hence, for example, in a country where interest is at six per cent, is worth little miore than £40 ready money. To oblige a creditor, therefore, to accept of this as full payment, foradebt of £ 100,actually paid down in ready money, was an act of such violent injustice, as hås scarce, perhaps, been attempted by the government of any other country which pretended to be free. It bears the evident marks of having originally been, what the honest and downright Doctor Douglas assures us it was, a scheme of fraudulent debtors to cheat their creditors. The government of Pennsylvania, indeed, pretended, upon their first emission of papet money, in 1722, to render their paper of equal va. lue with gold and silver, by enacting penalties against all those who made any difference in the price of their goods when they sold them for a com lony paper, and when they sold them for gold and silver ; a regulation equally tyrannical, but much less effectual, than that which it was meant to support. A positive law may render a shilling à legal tender for a guinea; because it may direct the courts of justice to discharge the debtor who has made that tender. But no positive law can oblige * person who sells goods, and who is at liberty to sell or not to sell, as he pleases, to accept of a shilling as équivalent to a guinea in the price of them. Notwithstanding any regulation of this kind, itappeared, by the course of exchange with Great Britain, that

100 sterling was occasionally considered as equivalent, in some of the colonies, to £130, and in others

to so great a sum as £1,100 currency; this difference in the value arising from the difference in the quantity of paper emitted in the different colonies, and in the distance and probability of the term of its final discharge and redemption.

No law, therefore, could be more equitable than the act of parliament, so unjustly complained of in the colonies, which declared, that no paper currency to be emitted there in time coming, should be a legal tender of payment.

Pennsylvania was always more moderate in its emissions of paper money than any other of our colonies. Its paper currency, accordingly, is said never to have sunk below the value of the gold and silver which was current in the colony before the first emission of its paper money. Before that emission the colony had raised the denominationofits coin, and had, by act of assembly, ordered 3s. sterling to pass in the colonies for 6s. 3d. and afterwards for 6s. 8d. A pound, colony currency, therefore, even when that currency was gold and sil. ver, was more than thirty per cent. below the van lue of £1 sterling; and when that currency was turned into paper, it was seldom much much more than thirty per cent. below that value. The prea tence for raising the denomination of the coin, was to prevent the exportation of gold and silver, by making equal quantities of those metals pass forgreater sums in the colony than they did in the mothercountry. It was found, however, that the price of all goods from the mother-country rose exactly in proportion as they raised the denomination of their coin, so that their gold and silver were exported as fast as ever.



The paper of each colony being received in the payment of the provincial taxes, for the full value for which it had been issued, it necessarily derived from this use some additional value, over and above what it would have had, from the real or supposed distance of the term of its final discharge and redemption. This additional value was greater or less, according as the quantity of paper issued was more or less above what could be employed in the payment of the taxes of the particular colony which issued it. It was in all the colonies very much above what could be employed in this manner.

A prince, who should enact that a certain proportion of his taxes should be paid in a paper money of a certain kind, might thereby give a certain value to this paper money, even though the term of its final discharge and redemption should depend altogether upon the will of the prince. If the bank which issued this paper was careful to keep the quantity of it always somewhat below what could easily be employed in this manner, the demand for it might be such as to make it even bear a premium, or sell for somewhat more in the market than the quantity of gold or silver currency for which it was issued. Some people account in this manner for what is called the agio of the bank of Amsterdam, or for the superiority of bank money over current money, though this bank money, as they pretend, cannot be taken out of the bank at the will of the owner. The greater part of foreign bills of exchange must be paid in bank money, that is, by a transfer in the books of the bank ; and the directors of the bank, they allege, arę careful to keep the whole quantity of bank money

[blocks in formation]

always below what this use occasions a demand for. It is upon this account, they say, that bank money sells for a premium, or bears an agio of four or five per cent. above the same nominal sum of the gold and silver currency of the country. This account of the bank of Amsterdam, however, it will appear hereafter, is in a great measure chimerical.

A paper currency which falls below the value of gold and silver 'coin, does not thereby sink the value of those metals, or occasion equal quantities of them to exchange for a smaller quantity of goods of any other kind. The proportion between the value of gold and silver, and that of goods of any other kind, depends in all cases, not upon the nature or quantity of any particular paper money, which may be current in any particular country,but upon the richness or poverty of the mines, which happen at any particular time to supply the great market of the commercial world with those metals. It depends upon the proportion between the quantity of labour which is necessary in order to bring a certain quantity of gold and silver to market, and that which is necessary in order to bring thither a certain quantity of any other sort of goods.

If bankers are restrained from issuing any circu . lating bank notes, or notes payable to the bearer for less than a certain sum; and if they are subjected to the obligation of an immediate and unconditional payment of such bank notes as soon as presented, their trade may, with safety to the public, be rendered in all other respects perfectly free. The late multiplication of banking companies in both parts of the united kingdom,an eventby which


many people have been much alarmed, instead of diminishing, increases the security of the public. It obliges all of them to be more circumspect in their conduct, and, by not extending their currency beyond its due proportion to their cash, to guard themselves against those malicious runs, which the rivalship of so many competitors is always ready to bring upon them. It restrains the circulation of each particular company within a narrower circle, and reduces their circulating notes to a smaller number. By dividing the whole circulation into a greater number of parts, the failure of any one company, an accident which, in the course of things, must sometimes happen, becomes of less consequence to the public. This free competition, too, obliges all bankers to be more liberal in their dealings with their customers, lest their rivals should carry them away. In general, if any

branch of trade, or any division of labour, be advantageous to the public, the freer and more general the competition, it will always be the more so.


Of the accumulation of capital, or of productive and

unproductive labour. There is one sort of labour which adds to the value of the subject upon which it is bestowed; there is another which has no such effect. The former, as it produces a value, may be called productive, the latter, unproductive* labour. Thus

* Some French authors of great learning and ingenuity have used those words in a different sepse. In the last chapter of the fourth book, I shall endeavour to shew that their sense is an improper ore,

« AnteriorContinuar »