increase of stock in all the different trades 
carried on in the same society, the same competition 
must produce the same effect in them 
It is not easy, it has already been observed
to ascertain what are the average wages of labour
even in a particular place, and at a particular 
time. We can, even in this case, seldom 
determine more than what are the most 
usual wages. But even this can seldom be 
done with regard to the profits of stock. Profit 
is so very fluctuating, that the person who 
carries on a particular trade, cannot always 
tell you himself what is the average of his annual 
profit. It is affected, not only by every 
variation of price in the commodities which 
he deals in, but by the good or bad fortune 
both of his rivals and of his customers, and by 
a thousand other accidents, to which goods
when carried either by sea or by land, or even 
when stored in a warehouse, are liable. It 
varies, therefore, not only from year to year
but from day to day, and almost from hour to 
hour. To ascertain what is the average profit 
of all the different trades carried on in a 
great kingdom, must be much more difficult; 
and to judge of what it may have been formerly, 
or in remote periods of time, with any 
degree of precision, must be altogether impossible
But though it may be impossible to determine, 
with any degree of precision, what are 
or were the average profits of stock, either in 
the present or in ancient times, some notion 
may be formed of them from the interest of 
money. It may be laid down as a maxim, 
that wherever a great deal can be made by the 
use of money, a great deal will commonly be 
given for the use of it; and that, wherever 
little can be made by it, less will commonly 
be given for it. Accordingly, therefore, as 
the usual market rate of interest varies in any 
country, we may be assured that the ordinary 
profits of stock must vary with it, must sink 
as it sinks, and rise as it rises. The progress 
of interest, therefore, may lead us to form 
some notion of the progress of profit
By the 37th of Henry VIII. all interest 
above ten per cent. was declared unlawful
More, it seems, had sometimes been taken before 
that. In the reign of Edward VI. religious 
zeal prohibited all interest. This prohibition, 
however, like all others of the same 
kind, is said to have produced no effect, and 
probably rather increased than diminished the 
evil of usury. The statute of Henry VIII. 
was revived by the 13th of Elizabeth, cap. 8. 
and ten per cent. continued to be the legal 
rate of interest till the 21st of James I. when 
it was restricted to eight per cent. It was reduced 
to six per cent. soon after the Restoration, 
and by the 12th of Queen Anne, to five 
per cent. All these different statutory regulations 
seem to have been made with great 
propriety. They seem to have followed, and 
not to have gone before, the market rate of 
interest, or the rate at which people of good 
credit usually borrowed. Since the time of 
Queen Anne, five per cent. seems to have been 
rather above than below the market rate. Before 
the late war, the government borrowed 
at three per cent.; and people of good credit 
in the capital, and in many other parts of the 
kingdom, at three and a-half, four, and four 
and a-half per cent
Since the time of Henry VIII. the wealth 
and revenue of the country have been continually 
advancing, and in the course of their 
progress, their pace seems rather to have been 
gradually accelerated than retarded. They 
seem not only to have been going on, but to 
have been going on faster and faster. The 
wages of labour have been continually increasing 
during the same period, and, in the greater 
part of the different branches of trade and 
manufactures, the profits of stock have been 
It generally requires a greater stock to 
carry on any sort of trade in a great town 
than in a country village. The great stock 
employed in every branch of trade, and the 
number of rich competitors, generally reduce 
the rate of profit in the former below what it 
is in the latter. But the wages of labour are 
generally higher in a great town than in a 
country village. In a thriving town, the people 
who have great stocks to employ, frequently 
cannot get the number of workmen they 
want, and therefore bid against one another, 
in order to get as many as they can, which 
raises the wages of labour, and lowers the profits 
of stock. In the remote parts of the 
country, there is frequently not stock sufficient 
to employ all the people, who therefore 
bid against one another, in order to get employment
which lowers the wages of labour
and raises the profits of stock
In Scotland, though the legal rate of interest 
is the same as in England, the market 
rate is rather higher. People of the best credit 
there seldom borrow under five per cent
Even private bankers in Edinburgh give four 
per cent. upon their promissory-notes, of 
which payment, either in whole or in part 
may be demanded at pleasure. Private bankers 
in London give no interest for the money 
which is deposited with them. There are few 
trades which cannot be carried on with a 
smaller stock in Scotland than in England. 
The common rate of profit, therefore, must 
be somewhat greater. The wages of labour
it has already been observed, are lower in 
Scotland than in England. The country, too, 
is not only much poorer, but the steps by 
which it advances to a better condition, for it 
is evidently advancing, seem to be much slower 
and more tardy
The legal rate of interest in France has not,