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from all the mines of America, Europe, and Northern Asia, America alone furnishes 70,000 marcs of gold, and 3,250,000 marcs of silver, and consequently too of the total produce of gold, and too of the total produce of silver. The relative abundance of the two metals differ, therefore, very little in the two continents. The quantity of gold drawn from the mines of America is to that of silver as 1 to 46; and in Euorpe, including Asiatic Russia, the proportion is as 1 to 40.
These results may serve to throw some light on the great problem of political economy, examined by Mr. Smith in the ele . venth chapter of the first book of his work, where he treats of the causes of the fluctuation between the relative value of the precious metals. This celebrated author supposes, that for every ounce of gold there are more than 22 ounces of silver imported into Europe. If this supposition were correct, the Old Continent ought to receive from the New only 1,554,000 marcs of silver, instead of 3,250,000, which it really receives. However, the greater the abundance of gold in proportion to silver, the more we must be inclined to admit with Mr. Smith, that the proportion between the respective values of the two metals does not alone depend on the quantity in the market. Since the discovery of America to the
present day, the value of silver has fallen so much in the western parts of Europe, that the proportion* between that metal and gold, which, at the end of the 15th century, was as 1 to 11, or 1 to 12, is now as 1 to 145, and even as 1 to 154. This change would not have taken place if the increase of the respective masses of the two metals had been at all times as uniformt as at present. From what has just been stated, it is not accurate to advance, as has frequently been done, that the fecundity of the silver mines of America surpasses that of the mines of the Old Continent in much greater proportion than the gold mines. It is true that of the 70,000 marcs of gold annually supplied by America, five-sixths are derived from washing places, established in alluvial soil ; but these washing places (lavaderos) are prisingly uniform in their produce; and all who have visited the Spanish or Portuguese colonies know that the exportation of gold from America must considerably increase with the progress of population and agriculture.
Till 1545, when the Cerro de Potosi began
* Under Philip-le-Bel a marc of gold was current for 10 marcs of silver. In Holland, the proportion in 1336, was as 104 to 1. In France it was in 1388, as 10 to 1. (Recherches sur le Commerce, Amsterdam, 1778, t. ii. p.
ii. p. 142.)
to be worked, Europe appears to have received much more gold than silver from the New Continent. . Five-sixths of the booty which Cortez acquired at Tenochtitlan, and the treasures at Caxamarca and Cuzco consisted in gold; and the silver mines of Porco in Peru, and Tasco and Tlapujahua in Mexico, were very feebly wrought in the times of Cortez and Pizarro. It is only since 1545 that Spain has been inundated with the silver of Peru. This accumulation produced the greater effect, as the civilization of Europe was then more concentrated; as communication was less frequent; and as a smaller portion of the precious metals were re-exported for Asia. About the middle of the 16th, and the beginning of the 17th century, the proportion between gold and silver rapidly changed, especially in the south of Europe. In Holland it was still, in 1589, as 11š to 1; but under the reign of Louis XIII. in 1641, we find it already in Flanders, as 124 to 1;
in France, as 131 to 1; and in Spain as. 14 to 1, and even beyond that. The extraction of gold has prodigiously increased in America since the end of the 17th century; and although the auriferous grounds of Brazil have been partly known ever since 1877, yet the gold-stream works only commenced in the reign of Peter II. In the time of Charles V. a quantity of gold of
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forty or fifty thousand marcs would have been sufficient to produce a sensible change in the proportion between gold and silver in Europe. On the other hand, this influence was hardly felt in the beginning of the 18th century, when commercial relations were very much multiplied. The gold of Brazil, divided over a vast extent of country, could not produce the effect on the price of silver which it would have produced by a rapid accumulation on a single point of the globe.
We shall now enter upon a very important question, which has been very variously treated in works of political economy: namely, the quantity of gold and silver which has flowed from the New Continent into the Old, since 1492 to this day. Instead of examining the progress of mining in America, and estimating the produce of the mines of each colony at different periods, they have laid down a hypothesis - of a certain number of millions of piastres, . which have been arbitrarily enough supposed to have been introduced annually into Portugal and Spain, during three centuries. It might have been easily foreseen that in calculating according to this principle, they would obtain results differing from one another in several thousands of millions of livres tournois, according as the annual importation was taken at ten or twelve millions of livres only, either below or above the truth. Besides,
the greatest number of the most celebrated authors, instead of investigating for themselves, were satisfied with copying the valuations of Don Geronimo de Ustariz, as if merely to quote the particular opinion of a Spanish author was sufficient to inspire confidence. Before communicating my own results, let us examine those calculations which have been hitherto before the public.
Ustariz, in his excellent treatise of commerce and navigation t, founds his calculations on those of Don Sancho de Moncada and Don Pedro Fernandez de Navarete. The former, who was professor in the University of Alcala, affirms vaguely, that “ according to a repre► sentation made to the king, there have entered “ into Spain, between 1492 and 1595, in gold " and silver extracted from the mines of
America, two thousand millions of piastres ; “ that at least the same quantity had entered “ without being registered ; and that of all “ the gold and silver it would be difficult to “ find in Spain two hundred millions, one “ hundred in coin, and another hundred in “ household furniture.” Ustariz adds to these two thousand millions, the quantity imported
* Forbonnais, Raynal, Gerboux, and the judicious author of the Recherches sur le Commerce (Amst. 1778.)
+ Edition of Paris, 1753, p. 11. Toze, kleine schriften, 1791, p. 99.