First Sort.—The first sort of rude produce
of which the price rises in the progress of improvement
is that which it is scarce in the power 
of human industry to multiply at all. It consists 
in those things which nature produces 
only in certain quantities, and which being of 
a very perishable nature, it is impossible to 
accumulate together the produce of many different 
seasons. Such are the greater part of 
rare and singular birds and fishes, many different 
sorts of game, almost all wild-fowl, all 
birds of passage in particular, as well as many 
other things. When wealth, and the luxury 
which accompanies it, increase, the demand 
for these is likely to increase with them, and 
no effort of human industry may be able to 
increase the supply much beyond what it was 
before this increase of the demand. The quantity 
of such commodities, therefore, remaining 
the same, or nearly the same, while the competition 
to purchase them is continually increasing
their price may rise to any degree of 
extravagance, and seems not to be limited by 
any certain boundary. If woodcocks should 
become so fashionable as to sell for twenty 
guineas a-piece, no effort of human industry 
could increase the number of those brought to 
market, much beyond what it is at present
The high price paid by the Romans, in the 
time of their greatest grandeur, for rare birds 
and fishes, may in this manner easily be accounted 
for. These prices were not the effects 
of the low value of silver in those times
but of the high value of such rarities and curiosities 
as human industry could not multiply 
at pleasure. The real value of silver was 
higher at Rome, for some time before, and 
after the fall of the republic, than it is through 
the greater part of Europe at present. Three 
sestertii equal to about sixpence sterling, was 
the price which the republic paid for the modius 
or peck of the tithe wheat of Sicily
This price, however, was probably below the 
average market price, the obligation to deliver 
their wheat at this rate being considered as a 
tax upon the Sicilian farmers. When the 
Romans, therefore, had occasion to order 
more corn than the tithe of wheat amounted 
to, they were bound by capitulation to pay for 
the surplus at the rate of four sestertii, or 
eightpence sterling the peck; and this had 
probably been reckoned the moderate and reasonable
that is, the ordinary or average contract 
price of those times; it is equal to about 
one-and-twenty shillings the quarter. Eight-and-twenty 
shillings the quarter was, before 
the late years of scarcity, the ordinary contract 
price of English wheat, which in quality is inferior 
to the Sicilian, and generally sells for a 
lower price in the European market. The 
value of silver, therefore, in those ancient 
times, must have been to its value in the present, 
as three to four inversely; that is, three 
ounces of silver would then have purchased 
the same quantity of labour and commodities 
which four ounces will do at present. When 
we read in Pliny, therefore, that Seius[22] bought 
a white nightingale, as a present for the empress 
Agrippina, at the price of six thousand 
sestertii, equal to about fifty pounds of our 
present money; and that Asinius Celer[23] purchased 
a surmullet at the price of eight thousand 
sestertii, equal to about sixty-six pounds 
thirteen shillings and fourpence of our present 
money; the extravagance of those prices
how much soever it may surprise us, is apt, 
notwithstanding, to appear to us about one 
third less than it really was. Their real price
the quantity of labour and subsistence which 
was given away for them, was about one-third 
more than their nominal price is apt to express 
to us in the present times. Seius gave for the 
nightingale the command of a quantity or labour 
and subsistence, equal to what L.66 : 13 : 4d. 
would purchase in the present times; and 
Asinius Celer gave for a surmullet the command 
of a quantity equal to what L.88 : 17 : 9d. 
would purchase. What occasioned the 
extravagance of those high prices was, not so 
much the abundance of silver, as the abundance 
of labour and subsistence, of which 
those Romans had the disposal, beyond what 
was necessary for their own use. The quantity 
of silver, of which they had the disposal
was a good deal less than what the command 
of the same quantity of labour and subsistence 
would have procured to them in the present 
Second sort.—The second sort of rude produce
of which the price rises in the progress 
of improvement, is that which human industry 
can multiply in proportion to the demand
It consists in those useful plants and animals
which, in uncultivated countries, nature produces 
with such profuse abundance, that they 
are of little or no value, and which, as cultivation 
advances, are therefore forced to give 
place to some more profitable produce. During 
a long period in the progress of improvement
the quantity of these is continually diminishing
while, at the same time, the demand 
for them is continually increasing. Their 
real value, therefore, the real quantity of labour 
which they will purchase or command, 
gradually rises, till at last it gets so high as 
to render them as profitable a produce as any 
thing else which human industry can raise 
upon the most fertile and best cultivated land
When it has got so high, it cannot well go 
higher. If it did, more land and more industry 
would soon be employed to increase 
their quantity. 
When the price of cattle, for example, rises 
so high, that it is as profitable to cultivate land 
in order to raise food for them as in order to 
raise food for man, it cannot well go higher
If it did, more corn land would soon be turned