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commerce ; and though they must have been a most inconvenient one, yet in old times we find things were frequently valued according to the number of cattle which had been given in exchange for them. The armour of Diomede, says Homer, cost only nine oxen ; but that of Glaucus cost a hundred oxen. Salt is said to be the common instrument of commerce and exchanges in Abyssinia ; a species of shells in some parts of the coast of India ; dried cod at Newfoundland ; tobacco in Virginia ; sugar in some of our West India colonies ; hides or dressed leather in some other countries; and there is at this day a village in Scotland where it is not uncommon, I am told, for a workman to carry nails instead of money to the baker's shop or the alehouse.
“ In all countries, however, men seem at last to have been determined by irresistible reasons to give the preference for this employment to metals above every other commodity.
Metals can not only be kept with as little loss as any other commodity, scarce anything being less perishable than they are, but they can likewise, without any loss, be divided into any number of parts, and by fusion those parts can easily be reunited again—a quality which no other equally durable commodities possess, and which, more than any other quality, renders them fit to be the instruinents of commerce and circulation. The man who wanted to buy salt, for example, and had nothing but cattle to give in exchange for it, must have been obliged to buy salt to the value of a whole ox or a whole sheep at a time. He could seldom buy less than this, because what he was to give for it could seldom be divided without loss; and if he had a mind to buy more, he must, for the same reasons, have been obliged to buy double or treble the quantity—the value, to wit, of two or three oxen, or of two or three sheep. If, on the contrary, instead of sheep or oxen, he had metals to give in exchange for it, he could easily proportion the quantity of the metal to the precise quantity of the commodity which he had immediate occasion for.
“ Different metals have been made use of by different nations for this purpose.
Iron was the common instrument of commerce among the ancient Spartans ; copper among the ancient Romans ; and gold and silver among all rich and commercial nations.
“ Those metals seem originally to have been made use of for this purpose in rude bars, without any stamp or coinage. Thus
1 In the middle of last century.
we are told by Pliny, upon the authority of Timæus, an ancient historian, that till the time of Servius Tullius, the Romans had no coined money, but made use of unstamped bars of copper to purchase whatever they had occasion for. These rude bars, therefore, performed at that time the functions of money.
“ The use of metals in this rude state was attended with two very considerable inconveniences : first with the trouble of weighing; and, secondly, with that of assaying them. In the precious metals, where a small difference in the quantity makes a great difference in the value, even the business of weighing with proper exactness would require at least very accurate weights and scales. The weighing of gold, in particular, is an operation of some nicety. In the coarser metals, indeed, where a small error would be of little consequence, less accuracy would no doubt be necessary; yet we should find it excessively troublesome if, every time a poor man had occasion either to buy or sell a farthing's worth of goods, he was obliged to weigh the farthing. The operation of assaying is still more difficult, still more tedious; and unless a part of the metal is fairly melted in the crucible, with proper dissolvents, any conclusion that can be drawn from it is extremely uncertain. Before the institution of coined money, however, unless they went through this tedious and difficult operation, people must always have been liable to the grossest frauds and impositions ; and instead of a pound-weight of pure silver or pure copper, might receive in exchange for their goods an adulterated composition of the coarsest and cheapest materials, which had, however, in their outward appearance, been made to resemble those metals. Accordingly, to prevent such abuses, to facilitate exchanges, and thereby to encourage all sorts of industry and commerce, it has been found necessary, in all countries that have made any considerable advances towards improvement, to affix a public stamp upon certain quantities of such particular metals as were in those countries commonly made use of to purchase goods. Hence the origin of coined money, and of those public offices called Mints-institutions exactly of the same nature with those of the aulnagers and stamp-masters of woollen and linen cloth. All of them are equally meant to ascertain, by means of a public stamp, the quantity and uniform goodness of those different commodities when brought to market.” 1 It will be understood from these explanations that money is
1 Smith's Wealth of Nations, book i. chap. 4.
only an article which can be conveniently used in exchanging. It is in this, and in nothing else, that its usefulness lies.
Money being useful only as an instrument for effecting exchanges, it follows that the world does not become possessed of a large quantity of those useful and agreeable things that really form wealth, by merely having more money to employ in making exchanges among them. But money being, from many causes, closely associated to the mind with wealth, it has not unnaturally been imagined that the more money a nation could draw to itself and retain, the more prosperous and satisfactory its condition. Hence exports of goods, for which money would be imported, were encouraged, and imports of goods which would have drawn money away, were discouraged. It was overlooked that the money itself was useful only as a convenient means of obtaining other commodities, and that it must be advantageous to a nation to part with its money for commodities which it wanted, when it could get them cheaper from abroad than it could produce them at home. It used to be said that we can only establish a profitable trade when we pay in our own manufactures. Now, paying in gold is, after all, indirectly paying with our own manufactures, for—except the comparatively trifling quantity that may have been taken in war, or that may have been brought home in their own possession by persons who had gone as diggers to the gold countries—there is not an ounce of bullion in the country that has not been obtained in exchange for some article produced either by our manufacturing or agricultural industry. Let him who doubts this position, try if he can discover any other method by which gold can have found its way to this country.
V. PROTECTION. 1
Mr. Prohibitor, a gentleman in France, employed his time and his capital in converting into iron the mineral of his estates. As nature had been more liberal towards the Belgians, they supplied iron to the French cheaper than Mr. Prohibitor ; that is to say, France, or all the French, could obtain a given quantity of iron with less labour, by purchasing it from the honest Flem
1 This lesson and those which follow are from Dr. W. B. Hodgson's translation of Bastiat's
What is Seen and chat is not Seen.
ings. Thus, guided by their interest, they did not complain of this ; but every day witnessed a multitude of nailers, smiths, cartwrights, machinists, farriers, and workmen, on their way, personally, or represented by middlemen, to provide themselves in Belgium. This, however, very much displeased Mr. Prohibitor.
At first he thought of stopping this abuse by his own strength. This was, indeed, the best that could be done, as he alone suffered. I will take my musket, he said to himself, I will stick four pistols in my belt, I will fill my cartridge-box, I will gird on my trusty sword, and thus equipped, I will make for the frontier; and there, the first smith, nailer, farrier, machinist, or locksmith that may present himself, on his own business, and not mine, I will kill him to teach him how to live.
At the moment of setting out, Mr. Prohibitor made some reflections which tempered a little his warlike ardour. He said to himself :-In the first place, it is not absolutely impossible, that the buyers of iron, my fellow-countrymen and enemies, may take my doings amiss, and instead of allowing me to kill them, may
In the second place, even if I were to take with me all my servants, we could not guard all the passages. Finally, the proceeding would cost me very dear, dearer than the result is worth.
Mr. Prohibitor was sorrowfully about to resign himself to being simply free like every one else, when a bright thought flashed across his brain.
He remembered, that at Paris there is a great manufactory of laws. What is a law ? he said to himself. It is a measure to which, when once decreed, be it good or bad, all are obliged to conform. For the execution of a law, a public force is organized, and to constitute the said public force, men and money are taken from the nation.
If, then, I obtained from the great Parisian law-factory a little law to this effect, “ Belgian iron is prohibited,” I should obtain the following results :—The government would, instead of the few servants whom I wished to send to the frontier, send twenty thousand sons of my refractory blacksmiths, locksmiths, nailers, farriers, artisans, machinists, and labourers. Next, in order to keep in good condition of health and spirits, these 20,000 custom-house guards, government would distribute among them 25 millions of francs, taken from those same blacksmiths, nailers, artisans, and
labourers. The guard would be all the more effective ; it would cost me nothing ; I should not be exposed to the brutality of hagglers about price ; I should sell my iron on my own terms ; and I should enjoy the sweet satisfaction of seeing our great nation ingloriously mystified. That would teach it to proclaim itself incessantly the precursor and promoter of all progress in Europe. The game will be exciting, and is well worth the attempt.
M. Prohibitor repaired accordingly to the manufactory of laws. I may, some other time, tell the story of his secret negotiations ; but at present I will speak only of his ostensible proceedings. He addressed to the honourable law-makers the following considerations :
“ Belgian iron is sold in France at ten francs, and this obliges me to sell mine at the same price. I should greatly prefer to sell mine at fifteen, and I cannot on account this Belgian iron. Construct a law which shall say, · Belgian iron shall no longer enter France.' Immediately I shall raise my price five francs, and see the consequences :
“For every hundredweight of iron that I shall sell to the public, instead of receiving ten francs, I shall receive fifteen ; I shall become rich all the sooner ; I will enlarge my works, I will employ more workmen. My workmen and I will expend more, to the great advantage of all who supply us for many leagues round. These, too, having a greater demand for their products, will give greater employment to industry, and by degrees activity will be diffused through the whole country. This blessed five-franc piece
will drop into my strong box, will, like a stone thrown into a lake, spread to a distance an infinite number of concentric circles.”
Charmed by this discourse, enchanted to learn that it was so easy by legislation to increase the wealth of a nation, the fabricators of laws voted Protection. Why speak of labour and economy?
What avail those toilsome means of augmenting the national riches when a decree suffices ?
And, in fact, the law had all the consequences announced by Mr. Prohibitor ; only it had others also, for, to do him justice, he had not made a false reasoning, but a reasoning incomplete. In demanding a privilege, he had pointed out the effects which are seen, leaving in the shade those which are not seen. It is for us to repair this defect of memory, involuntary or designed.