Corn is a necessary, silver is only a superfluity
Whatever, therefore, may have been the increase 
in the quantity of the precious metals
which, during the period between the middle 
of the fourteenth and that of the sixteenth 
century, arose from the increase of wealth 
and improvement, it could have no tendency 
to diminish their value, either in Great Britain
or in any other part of Europe. If those 
who have collected the prices of things in ancient 
times, therefore, had, during this period
no reason to infer the diminution of the value 
of silver from any observations which they 
had made upon the prices either of corn, or of 
other commodities, they had still less reason 
to infer it from any supposed increase of 
wealth and improvement
Second Period.¬óBut how various soever 
may have been the opinions of the learned concerning 
the progress of the value of silver 
during the first period, they are unanimous 
concerning it during the second. 
From about 1570 to about 1640, during a 
period of about seventy years, the variation in 
the proportion between the value of silver and 
that of corn held a quite opposite course. Silver 
sunk in its real value, or would exchange 
for a smaller quantity of labour than before; 
and corn rose in its nominal price, and, instead 
of being commonly sold for about two 
ounces of silver the quarter, or about ten shillings 
of our present money, came to be sold 
for six and eight ounces of silver the quarter
or about thirty and forty shillings of our present 
The discovery of the abundant mines of 
America seems to have been the sole cause of 
this diminution in the value of silver, in proportion 
to that of corn. It is accounted for, 
accordingly, in the same manner by every body
and there never has been any dispute, 
either about the fact, or about the cause of it. 
The greater part of Europe was, during this 
period, advancing in industry and improvement, 
and the demand for silver must consequently 
have been increasing; but the increase 
of the supply had, it seems, so far exceeded 
that of the demand, that the value of 
that metal sunk considerably. The discovery 
of the mines of America, it is to be observed
does not seem to have had any very sensible 
effect upon the prices of things in England
till after 1570; even though the mines of Potosi 
had been discovered more than twenty 
years before. 
From 1595 to 1620, both inclusive, the 
average price of the quarter of nine bushels of 
the best wheat, at Windsor market, appears
from the accounts of Eton college, to have 
been L.2 : 1 : 69⁄13. From which sum, neglecting 
the fraction, and deducting a ninth, or 
4s. 71⁄3d., the price of the quarter of eight 
bushels comes out to have been L.1 : 16 : 102⁄3. 
And from this sum, neglecting likewise the 
fraction, and deducting a ninth, or 4s. 11⁄9d., 
for the difference between the price of the best 
wheat and that of the middle wheat, the price 
of the middle wheat comes out to have been 
about L.1 : 12 : 88⁄9, or about six ounces and 
one-third of an ounce of silver
From 1621 to 1636, both inclusive, the 
average price of the same measure of the best 
wheat, at the same market, appears, from the 
same accounts, to have been L.2 : 10s.; from 
which, making the like deductions as in the 
foregoing case, the average price of the 
quarter of eight bushels of middle wheat 
comes out to have been L.1 : 19 : 6, or about 
seven ounces and two-thirds of an ounce of 
Third Period.¬óBetween 1630 and 1640, 
or about 1636, the effect of the discovery of 
the mines of America, is reducing the value 
of silver, appears to have been completed, and 
the value of that metal seems never to have 
sunk lower in proportion to that of corn than 
it was about that time. It seems to have risen 
somewhat in the course of the present century
and it had probably begun to do so, even 
some time before the end of the last. 
From 1637 to 1700, both inclusive, being 
the sixty-four last years of the last century
the average price of the quarter of nine bushels 
of the best wheat, at Windsor market, appears
from the same accounts, to have been 
L.2 : 11 : 01⁄3, which is only 1s. 01⁄3d. dearer 
than it had been during the sixteen years before. 
But, in the course of these sixty-four 
years, there happened two events, which must 
have produced a much greater scarcity of corn 
than what the course of the seasons would 
otherwise have occasioned, and which, therefore, 
without supposing any further reduction 
in the value of silver, will much more than 
account for this very small enhancement of 
The first of these events was the civil war, 
which, by discouraging tillage and interrupting 
commerce, must have raised the price of 
corn much above what the course of the seasons 
would otherwise have occasioned. It 
must have had this effect, more or less, at all 
the different markets in the kingdom, but particularly 
at those in the neighborhood of 
London, which require to be supplied from 
the greatest distance. In 1648, accordingly, 
the price of the best wheat, at Windsor market
appears, from the same accounts, to have 
been L.4 : 5s., and, in 1649, to have been 
L.4, the quarter of nine bushels. The excess 
of those two years above L.2 10s. (the average 
price of the sixteen years preceding 1637) 
is L.3 5s., which, divided among the sixty-four 
last years of the last century, will alone 
very nearly account for that small enhancement 
of price which seems to have taken place 
in them. These, however, though the highest