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Average annual importationof gold
& silver from relative to the History of the Mines,
Tasco'; mine of Valenciana wrought;
and the Cerro de Gualgayoc; im1750–1803 35,300,000 portation of gold and silver into
Spain, towards the commencement of the 19th century, 43 millions of piastres.
We have already remarked that the proportion between gold and silver, which was before the discovery of America as 10 to 1, gradually changed to 16: 1. It would be of importance to know the quantity of gold which at different periods has flowed from the one continent to the other; but for this we want accurate data. The little which we know is reduced to the following facts :
Till 1525 Europe had received from the new world little else than gold; and from that period till the discovery of the mines of Brazil, towards the end of the seventeenth century, the silver imported exceeded the importation of gold in the proportion of 60 or 65 to 1. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the commerce in the precious metals underwent an extraordinary revolution: the produce of the silver mines experienced small variation ; but Brazil, Choco, Antioquia, Po
payan and Chili, have furnished so considerable a quantity of gold, that Europe has not perhaps drawn from America 30 marcs of silver for one marc of gold. In the last half of the past century the silver has again increased in the market. The mines of Mexico supplied Spain at an average with two millions and a half of marcs of silver annually, instead of the six hundred thousand which they furnished between 1700 and 1710. As the produce of gold has not continued to increase in the same proportion, the result is, that from 1750 to 1800, the quantity of gold imported into Europe was to the quantity of silver imported * in the proportion of 1 to 40. The mines of New Spain have, as it were, counterbalanced the effects which the abundance of the gold of Brazil would have produced. In general, we ought not to be astonished that the proportion between the respective values of gold and silver has not always varied in a very sensible manner according as one of these may have preponderated in the mass of metal imported from America into Europe. The accumulation of silver appears to have produced its whole effect
* Meggens found the proportion between gold and silver, from 1748 to 1753, as 1 to 225; from 1753 to 1764, as 1 to 26 . M. Gerboux supposed it in 1803 as 1 to 29%.
anterior to the year 1650, when the proportion of gold and silver was in Spain and Italy as 1 to 15. Since that period the population and commercial relations of Europe have experienced (such a considerable increase, that the variations in the value of the precious metals have depended on a great number of combined causes, and especially on the exportation of silver to the East Indies and China, and its consumption in plate.
If Europe at present produces, according to M. Héron de Villefosse, 215,000 marcs of silver for 5300 marcs of gold, or 40 marcs of silver for one marc of gold, it appears, on the other hand, that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the proportion was more in favour of the silver. The produce of the gold mines and stream-works diminished in Germany and Hungary at the time that the silver mines were most successfully wrought.
The mines of Freiberg alone, which, in the sixteenth century, yielded only 16,000 marcs per annum, yield more than 50,000' at present. I am inclined to believe, that, even without the discovery of America, the value of gold would have risen in Europe.
Let us examine, before concluding this chapter, what has become of the treasures drawn from the New Continent. Where are the twenty-eight thousand millions of livres
tournois, which Europe has received for three centuries from Spanish and Portuguese America? Forbonnais supposed, that, of 27} thousand millions of livres, which, according to him, were imported from the one continent into the other between 1492 and 1724, one half has been absorbed by the Indian and Levant trade; that a fourth was used in plate, or lost in melting, or by the ininute division in trinkets; and that the remainder was converted into specie. He estimated the precious metals circulating in Europe in 1766 at 7500 millions of livres tournois *, without including in this sum the produce of the mines of Spanish America since 1724, nor the specie existing in Europe previous to the discovery of the New World. M. Gerboux, in an interesting memoir on pecuniary legislation, has endeavoured to verify and extend the calculations of Forbonnais. He believes the actual existing specie of Europe amounts to 10,600 millions of livres tournois t, or 219. millions of piastres, and that before 1492 there were only 600 millions, or 114 millions of piastres. +
It is surprising that such an enlightened financier as
M. Necker should have ad.
* £306,122,400 Sterling. Trans.
vanced, in 1775, that the specie of France constituted nearly the half of the coin of Europe, and that the whole of Europe only possessed 4500 millions of livres tournois * in specie. The inaccuracy of this assertion has been proved by M. Demeunier, in the Encyclopédie Méthodique, and by M. Gerboux and M. Peuchet. t Indeed, M. Necker himself has greatly modified it in his work on the administration of the finances.
On the other hand, the estimate of M. Gerboux, who admits that the actual specie ,of Europe amounts to ten thousand six hundred millions of livres t, appears a great deal too high, when we turn our attention
to the population of this part of the world. It is generally believed that the quantity of the precious metals which circulated in ante-revolutionary France, is known with considerable certainty; and on account of the losses occasioned by the pecuniary law (loi monétaire) of November 30th, 1785, and the destruction of the colonial commerce, the circulation in 1808 is
* £183,673,440 Sterling. Trans.
+ Demeunier, Economie Politique. t. ii. p. 325. Gerboux, p. 75. & 92. Peuchet, Statistique de la France,
Necker de l'Administration des Finances, t. iii.
p. 474. p. 75.
# £132,652,992 Sterling. Truns.