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The quantity of specie now in circulation in the New World is much less than is commonly supposed. To judge of this with any degree of accuracy, we must recollect that the specie of France * is estimated at 2500 millions of livres tournois t; that of Spain 1, at 150 millions $; and that of Great Britain ll, at 920 millions ; and that the mass of gold and silver which remains in circulation in a country, far from following a proportion to its population, depends rather on the prosperity and civilization of the inhabitants, and the quantity of productions which require to be represented by pecuniary signs. Supposing the value of the precious metals existing either in specie or in wrought gold and silver:
According to M. Necker in 1784, at 2200 millions of livres ; according to M. Arnould in 1791, two thousand millions of livres ; according to M. Desrotours in 1801, at 2290 millions; and according to M. M. Peuchet and Gerboux in 1805, at 2550 millions of livres tournois.
+ Upwards of 102 millions Sterling. Trans.
# According to Ustariz in 1724, a hundred million of piastres, and according to the assertion of M. Musquiz, the minister of finance, cited in the work of Bourgoing, 80 millions of piastres in 1782.
$ £ 18,367,340 Sterling. Trans.
|| Adam Smith only estimates it at 30 millions sterling at most.
£ 37,551,000 Sterling. Trans.
We find a Total of
805 millionst of livres tournois, or 153,333,000 piastres.
very small part of the gold and silver extracted from the mines of America passes immediately into Africa and Asia, without first touching Europe. We shall estimate the quantity of precious metals which has passed from Acapulco into the Philippine Islands, since the conclusion of the 16th century, at 600,000 piastres $ per annum. S The expeditions from
We have followed, in these valuations, the principles laid down by Adam Smith and Necker, taking for basis the number of inhabitants, the mass of imposts paid to the government, the wealth of the clergy, and the relative activity of commerce. These : calculations are the more uncertain, as a great number of Negroes and Indians are mixed with the whites.
+ £32,858,137 Sterling. Trans.
I am aware, that Lord Anson found in the Acapulco galleon which fell into his hands, the sum of 1,357,454 piastres (Anson's Voyage, p. 384.) ; but we cannot estimate the annual importation at more than 600,000 piastres, when we consider that the galleon has not sailed every year since the end of the 16th century.
Lima to Manilla have been very rare, even latterly. The vessels sent from the West India Islands, and formerly from the ports of the United States, to the western coast of Africa, in the slave trade, exported not only fire-arms, brandy, and hardwares, but also silver in specie; but this exportation was compensated for by the purchase of gold-dust on the coast of Guinea, and by the lucrative commerce which the Anglo-Americans carry on with several parts of Europe.
Now, if we deduct from the 5706 millions of piastres drawn from the mines of the New Continent, since its discovery by Christopher Columbus till the present day, 3153 millions of piastres, which exist either
in specie or in wrought gold and silver in the civilized part of America ;
and 133 millions of piastres, which have past from
the western coast of America into Asia,
286 millions of piastres, we find that Europe has received from the New World, in the course of three centuries, 5420 millions of piastres.* Taking, also, the 186,000 marcs of gold which have passed as spoil into the hands of the conquerors at 25 millions,
* £1,138,200,000 Sterling. Trans.
it follows that the quantity of gold and silver imported into Europe from America, between 1492 and 1803, amounts to five thousand four hundred and forty-five millions of piastres, or to twenty-eight thousand five hundred and eightysix millions of livres tournois. *
This calculation, like all those offered by Forbonnais, Ustariz, Necker, and Raynal, is partly founded on facts and partly on mere conjecture. It is easy to conceive that the results are the more accurate as we were enabled to avail ourselves of a greater number of facts, and as the conjectures are founded on a more intimate acquaintance with the history and present state of the mines of the New Continent. It is for those of my readers who are accustomed to researches of this nature, to judge whether the sums fixed on by me are nearer the truth than those which have been hitherto adopted in the most esteemed and popular works.
Dividing the 5445 millions of piastres among the 311 years since the discovery of the New World till 1803, we find that the average annual importation amounts to seventeen millions and a half of piastres. From the historical researches which it has hitherto been in my power to make, it appears to me that the treasures of America have flowed into Europe in the following progression.
* £1,166,775,322 Sterling.
& silver from relative to the History of the Mines
lands ; Gold stream-works of Cibao;
coast of Paria ; voyage of Cabral. 1492-1500 250,000 The fleets did not arrive every year
in Spain, and that of Ovando was considered as immensely rich, though it was only laden with 2560 marcs of silver.
The Mexican mines of Tasco, Zultepeque, and Pachuca wrought;
Peruvian mines of Porco, Caran1500—1545 3,000,000 and Chaquiapu (or la Paz) ; spoil
gas, Andacava, Oruro, Carabaya, at Tenochtitlan, and at Caxamarca, and Cuzco; conquest of Choco and Antioquia.
Mines of Zacatecas and Gua
naxuato in New Spain; Cerro del 1545—160011,000,000 Potosi, in the Cordilleras of Peru;
tranquil possession of Chili, and the provincias internas of Mexico.
The mines of Potosi begin to get exhausted, especially after the middle of the 17th century; but
the mines of Yauricocha are dis1600-1700 16,000,000 covered. The mining produce of
New Spain, rises from two to five millions of piastres per annum ; the gold stream-works of Barbacoas and Choco.
The alluvial mines of Brazil wrought; Mexican mines of la Bis
caina, Xacal; Tlapujahua, Sombre1700-1750 22,500,000frete, and Batopilas; importation
of gold and silver into Spain, from 1748 to 1753, at an average 18 millions of piastres annually.