two or three hundred years ago, may be still 
in use, and, perhaps, some part of the gold 
which was brought from it two or three thousand 
years ago. The different masses of corn
which, in different years, must supply the consumption 
of the world, will always be nearly 
in proportion to the respective produce of 
those different years. But the proportion between 
the different masses of iron which may 
be in use in two different years, will be very 
little affected by any accidental difference in 
the produce of the iron mines of those two 
years; and the proportion between the masses 
of gold will be still less affected by any such 
difference in the produce of the gold mines
Though the produce of the greater part of 
metallic mines, therefore, varies, perhaps, still 
more from year to year than that of the greater 
part of corn fields, these variations have 
not the same effect upon the price of the 
species of commodities as upon that of the 
Variations in the Proportion between the respective 
Values of Gold and Silver
Before the discovery of the mines of America
the value of fine gold to fine silver was 
regulated in the different mines of Europe
between the proportions of one to ten and one 
to twelve; that is, an ounce of fine gold was 
supposed to be worth from ten to twelve ounces 
of fine silver. About the middle of the last 
century, it came to be regulated, between the 
proportions of one to fourteen and one to fifteen
that is, an ounce of fine gold came to 
be supposed worth between fourteen and fifteen 
ounces of fine silver. Gold rose in its 
nominal value, or in the quantity of silver 
which was given for it. Both metals sunk in 
their real value, or in the quantity of labour 
which they could purchase; but silver sunk 
more than gold. Though both the gold and 
silver mines of America exceeded in fertility 
all those which had ever been known before, 
the fertility of the silver mines had, it seems, 
been proportionally still greater than that of 
the gold ones. 
The great quantities of silver carried annually 
from Europe to India, have, in some of 
of the English settlements, gradually reduced 
the value of that metal in proportion to gold
In the mint of Calcutta, an ounce of fine gold 
is supposed to be worth fifteen ounces of fine 
silver, in the same manner as in Europe. It 
is in the mint, perhaps, rated too high for the 
value which it bears in the market of Bengal
In China, the proportion of gold to silver still 
continues as one to ten, or one to twelve. In 
Japan, it is said to be as one to eight. 
The proportion between the quantities of 
gold and silver annually imported into Europe
according to Mr Meggens' account, is 
as one to twenty-two nearly; that is, for one 
ounce of gold there are imported a little more 
than twenty-two ounces of silver. The great 
quantity of silver sent annually to the East 
Indies reduces, he supposes, the quantities of 
those metals which remain in Europe to the 
proportion of one to fourteen or fifteen, the 
proportion of their values. The proportion 
between their values, he seems to think, must 
necessarily be the same as that between their 
quantities, and would therefore be as one to 
twenty-two, were it not for this greater exportation 
of silver
But the ordinary proportion between the 
respective values of two commodities is not 
necessarily the same as that between the quantities 
of them which are commonly in the 
market. The price of an ox, reckoned at ten 
guineas, is about three score times the price of 
a lamb, reckoned at 3s. 6d. It would be absurd, 
however, to infer from thence, that there 
are commonly in the market three score lambs 
for one ox; and it would be just as absurd to 
infer, because an ounce of gold will commonly 
purchase from fourteen or fifteen ounces of 
silver, that there are commonly in the market 
only fourteen or fifteen ounces of silver for 
one ounce of gold
The quantity of silver commonly in the 
market, it is probable, is much greater in proportion 
to that of gold, than the value of a 
certain quantity of gold is to that of an equal 
quantity of silver. The whole quantity of a 
cheap commodity brought to market is commonly 
not only greater, but of greater value, 
than the whole quantity of a dear one. The 
whole quantity of bread annually brought to 
market, is not only greater, but of greater value, 
than the whole quantity of butcher's 
meat; the whole quantity of butcher's meat
than the whole quantity of poultry; and the 
whole quantity of poultry, than the whole 
quantity of wild fowl. There are so many 
more purchasers for the cheap than for the 
dear commodity, that, not only a greater quantity 
of it, but a greater value can commonly 
be disposed of. The whole quantity, therefore, 
of the cheap commodity, must commonly 
be greater in proportion to the whole quantity 
of the dear one, than the value of a certain 
quantity of the dear one, is to the value 
of an equal quantity of the cheap one. When 
we compare the precious metals with one another, 
silver is a cheap, and gold a dear commodity
We ought naturally to expect, therefore, 
that there should always be in the market
not only a greater quantity, but a greater 
value of silver than of gold. Let any man, 
who has a little of both, compare his own silver 
with his gold plate, and he will probably 
find, that not only the quantity, but the value 
of the former, greatly exceeds that of the latter. 
Many people, besides, have a good deal 
of silver who have no gold plate, which, even 
with those who have it, is generally confined 
to watch-cases, snuff-boxes, and such like 
trinkets, of which the whole amount is seldom