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 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 these metals. 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 these 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
The first public stamps of this kind that 
were affixed to the current metals, seem in 
many cases to have been intended to ascertain
what it was both most difficult and most important 
to ascertain, the goodness or fineness 
of the metal, and to have resembled the sterling 
mark which is at present affixed to plate 
and bars of silver, or the Spanish mark which 
is sometimes affixed to ingots of gold, and 
which, being struck only upon one side of the 
piece, and not covering the whole surface, ascertains 
the fineness, but not the weight of 
the metal. Abraham weighs to Ephron the 
four hundred shekels of silver which he had 
agreed to pay for the field of Machpelah
They are said, however, to be the current 
money of the merchant, and yet are received 
by weight, and not by tale, in the same manner 
as ingots of gold and bars of silver are at 
present. The revenues of the ancient Saxon 
kings of England are said to have been paid
not in money, but in kind, that is, in victuals 
and provisions of all sorts. William the Conqueror 
introduced the custom of paying them 
in money. This money, however, was for a 
long time, received at the exchequer, by 
weight, and not by tale
The inconveniency and difficulty of weighing 
those metals with exactness, gave occasion 
to the institution of coins, of which the stamp
covering entirely both sides of the piece, and 
sometimes the edges too, was supposed to ascertain 
not only the fineness, but the weight 
of the metal. Such coins, therefore, were received 
by tale, as at present, without the 
trouble of weighing
The denominations of those coins seem originally 
to have expressed the weight or quantity 
of metal contained in them. In the time 
of Servius Tullius, who first coined money at 
Rome, the Roman as or pondo contained
Roman pound of good copper. It was divided, 
in the same manner as our Troyes 
pound, into twelve ounces, each of which 
contained a real ounce of good copper. The 
English pound sterling, in the time of Edward I. 
contained a pound, Tower weight, of 
silver of a known fineness. The Tower 
pound seems to have been something more 
than the Roman pound, and something less 
than the Troyes pound. This last was not 
introduced into the mint of England till the 
18th of Henry the VIII. The French livre 
contained, in the time of Charlemagne, a 
pound, Troyes weight, of silver of a known 
fineness. The fair of Troyes in Champaign 
was at that time frequented by all the nations 
of Europe, and the weights and measures of 
so famous a market were generally know 
and esteemed. The Scots money pound contained
from the time of Alexander the First 
to that of Robert Bruce, a pound of silver of 
the same weight and fineness with the English 
pound sterling. English, French, and 
Scots pennies, too, contained all of them originally 
a real penny-weight of silver, the 
twentieth part of an ounce, and the two 
hundred-and-fortieth part of a pound. The 
shilling, too, seems originally to have been 
the denomination of a weight. When wheat 
is at twelve shillings the quarter, says an ancient 
statute of Henry III. then wastel bread of a 
farthing shall weigh eleven shillings and fourpence
The proportion, however, between 
the shilling, and either the penny on the one 
hand, or the pound on the other, seems not to 
have been so constant and uniform as that between 
the penny and the pound. During 
the first race of the kings of France, the 
French sou or shilling appears upon different 
occasions to have contained five, twelve
twenty, and forty pennies. Among the ancient 
Saxons, a shilling appears at one time 
to have contained only five pennies, and it is 
not improbable that it may have been as variable 
among them as among their neighbours, 
the ancient Franks. From the time of Charlemagne 
among the French, and from that of 
William the Conqueror among the English
the proportion between the pound, the shilling
and the penny, seems to have been uniformly 
the same as at present, though the 
value of each has been very different; for in 
every country of the world, I believe, the avarice 
and injustice of princes and sovereign 
states, abusing the confidence of their subjects, 
have by degrees diminished the real quantity