of great value. In the British coin, indeed, 
the value of the gold preponderates greatly
but it is not so in that of all countries. In 
the coin of some countries, the value of the 
two metals is nearly equal. In the Scotch 
coin, before the union with England, the 
gold preponderated very little, though it did 
somewhat[21], as it appears by the accounts 
of the mint. In the coin of many countries 
the silver preponderates. In France, the largest 
sums are commonly paid in that metal
and it in there difficult to get more gold than 
what is necessary to carry about in your pocket
The superior value, however, of the silver 
plate above that of the gold, which takes 
place in all countries, will much more than 
compensate the preponderancy of the gold 
coin above the silver, which takes place only 
in some countries. 
Though, in one sense of the word, silver 
always has been, and probably always will be, 
much cheaper than gold; yet, in another sense, 
gold may perhaps, in the present state of the 
Spanish market, be said to be somewhat cheaper 
than silver. A commodity may be said to 
be dear or cheap not only according to the 
absolute greatness or smallness of its usual 
price, but according as that price is more or 
less above the lowest for which it is possible 
to bring it to market for any considerable time 
together. This lowest price is that which 
barely replaces, with a moderate profit, the 
stock which must be employed in bringing of 
the commodity thither. It is the price which 
affords nothing to the landlord, of which rent 
makes not any component part, but which resolves 
itself altogether into wages and profit. 
But, in the present state of the Spanish market
gold is certainly somewhat nearer to this 
lowest price than silver. The tax of the king 
of Spain upon gold is only one-twentieth part 
of the standard metal, or five per cent.; whereas 
his tax upon silver amounts to one-tenth 
part of it, or to ten per cent. In these taxes
too, it has already been observed, consists the 
whole rent of the greater part of the gold and 
silver mines of Spanish America; and that 
upon gold is still worse paid than that upon 
silver. The profits of the undertakers of gold 
mines, too, as they more rarely make a fortune, 
must, in general, be still more moderate 
than those of the undertakers of silver 
mines. The price of Spanish gold, therefore, 
as it affords both less rent and less profit, 
must, in the Spanish market, be somewhat 
nearer to the lowest price for which it is possible 
to bring it thither, than the price of 
Spanish silver. When all expenses are computed, 
the whole quantity of the one metal, it 
would seem, cannot, in the Spanish market
be disposed of so advantageously as the whole 
quantity of the other. The tax, indeed, of 
the king of Portugal upon the gold of the 
Brazils, is the same with the ancient tax of 
the king of Spain upon the silver of Mexico 
and Peru; or one-fifth part of the standard 
metal. It may therefore be uncertain, whether, 
to the general market of Europe, the 
whole mass of American gold comes at a price 
nearer to the lowest for which it is possible to 
bring it thither, than the whole mass of American 
The price of diamonds and other precious 
stones may, perhaps, be still nearer to the lowest 
price at which it is possible to bring them 
to market, than even the price of gold
Though it is not very probable that any 
part of a tax, which is not only imposed upon 
one of the most proper subjects of taxation, a 
mere luxury and superfluity, but which affords 
so very important a revenue as the tax upon 
silver, will ever be given up us long as it is 
possible to pay it; yet the same impossibility 
of paying it, which, in 1736, made it necessary 
to reduce it from one-fifth to one-tenth
may in time make it necessary to reduce it 
still further; in the same manner as it made 
it necessary to reduce the tax upon gold to 
one-twentieth. That the silver mines of Spanish 
America, like all other mines, become 
gradually more expensive in the working, on 
account of the greater depths at which it is 
necessary to carry on the works, and of the 
greater expense of drawing out the water, and 
of supplying them with fresh air at those 
depths, is acknowledged by every body who 
has inquired into the state of those mines
These causes, which are equivalent to a 
growing scarcity of silver (for a commodity 
may be said to grow scarcer when it becomes 
more difficult and expensive to collect a certain 
quantity of it), must, in time, produce 
one or other of the three following events: 
The increase of the expense must either, first, 
be compensated altogether by a proportionable 
increase in the price of the metal; or, secondly, 
it must be compensated altogether by a proportionable 
diminution of the tax upon silver
or thirdly, it must be compensated partly by 
the one and partly by the other of those two 
expedients. This third event is very possible. 
As gold rose in its price in proportion to silver
notwithstanding a great diminution of 
the tax upon gold, so silver might rise in its 
price in proportion to labour and commodities
notwithstanding an equal diminution of 
the tax upon silver
Such successive reductions of the tax, however, 
though they may not prevent altogether, 
must certainly retard, more or less, the rise 
of the value of silver in the European market
In consequence of such reductions, many 
mines may be wrought which could not be 
wrought before, because they could not afford 
to pay the old tax; and the quantity of silver 
annually brought to market, must always be 
somewhat greater, and, therefore, the value