part of a man's wants which the produce of 
his own labour can supply. He supplies the 
far greater part of them by exchanging that 
surplus part of the produce of his own labour
which is over and above his own consumption
for such parts of the produce of other men's 
labour as he has occasion for. Every man 
thus lives by exchanging, or becomes, in some 
measure, a merchant, and the society itself 
grows to be what is properly a commercial society
But when the division of labour first began 
to take place, this power of exchanging must 
frequently have been very much clogged and 
embarrassed in in operations. One man, we 
shall suppose, has more of a certain commodity 
than he himself has occasion for, while 
another has less. The former, consequently, 
would be glad to dispose of, and the latter to 
purchase, a part of this superfluity. But if 
this latter should chance to have nothing that 
the former stands in need of, no exchange can 
be made between them. The butcher has 
more meat in his shop than he himself can 
consume, and the brewer and the baker would 
each of them be willing to purchase a part of 
it. But they have nothing to offer in exchange
except the different productions of 
their respective trades, and the butcher is already 
provided with all the bread and beer 
which he has immediate occasion for. No exchange 
can, in this case, be made between 
them. He cannot be their merchant, nor they 
his customers; and they are all of them thus 
mutually less serviceable to one another. In 
order to avoid the inconveniency of such situations, 
every prudent man in every period 
of society, after the first establishment of the 
division of labour, must naturally have endeavoured 
to manage his affairs in such a 
manner, as to have at all times by him, besides 
the peculiar produce of his own industry
a certain quantity of some one commodity 
or other, such as he imagined few people 
would be likely to refuse in exchange for the 
produce of their industry. Many different 
commodities, it is probable, were successively 
both thought of and employed for this purpose
In the rude ages of society, cattle are 
said to have been the common instrument of 
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 ale-house. 
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 any thing being 
less perishable than they are, but they can 
likewise, without any loss, be divided into any 
number of parts, as by fusion those parts can 
easily be re-united again; a quality which no 
other equally durable commodities possess, and 
which, more than any other quality, renders 
them fit to be the instruments 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 triple 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 
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 we are 
told by Pliny[6], upon the authority of Tim├Žus, 
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 this time the function 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, requires 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