then known may be more barren than any that 
was wrought before the discovery of the mines 
of America. Whether the one or the other of 
those two events may happen to take place, is 
of very little importance to the real wealth 
and prosperity of the world, to the real value 
of the annual produce of the land and labour 
of mankind. Its nominal value, the quantity 
of gold and silver by which this annual produce 
could be expressed or represented, would, 
no doubt, be very different; but its real value, 
the real quantity of labour which it could 
purchase or command, would be precisely the 
same. A shilling might, in the one case, represent 
no more labour than a penny does at 
present; and a penny, in the other, might represent 
as much as a shilling does now. But 
in the one case, he who had a shilling in his 
pocket would be no richer than he who has a 
penny at present; and in the other, he who 
had a penny would be just as rich as he who 
has a shilling now. The cheapness and abundance 
of gold and silver plate would be the 
sole advantage which the world could derive 
from the one event; and the dearness and 
scarcity of those trifling superfluities, the only 
inconveniency it could suffer from the other. 
Conclusion of the Digression concerning the Variations 
in the Value of Silver
The greater part of the writers who have 
collected the money price of things in ancient 
times, seem to have considered the low money 
price of corn, and of goods in general, or, in 
other words, the high value of gold and silver
as a proof, not only of the scarcity of 
those metals, but of the poverty and barbarism 
of the country at the time when it took 
place. This notion is connected with the system 
of political economy, which represents 
national wealth as consisting in the abundance 
and national poverty in the scarcity, of gold 
and silver; a system which I shall endeavour 
to explain and examine at great length in the 
fourth book of this Inquiry. I shall only observe 
at present, that the high value of the 
precious metals can be no proof of the poverty 
or barbarism of any particular country at the 
time when it took place. It is a proof only 
of the barrenness of the mines which happened 
at that time to supply the commercial world
A poor country, as it cannot afford to buy 
more, so it can as little afford to pay dearer 
for gold and silver than a rich one; and the 
value of those metals, therefore, is not likely 
to be higher in the former than in the latter. 
In China, a country much richer than any 
part of Europe, the value of the precious metals 
is much higher than in any part of Europe
As the wealth of Europe, indeed, has 
increased greatly since the discovery of the 
mines of America, so the value of gold and 
silver has gradually diminished. This diminution 
of their value, however, has not been 
owing to the increase of the real wealth of 
Europe, of the annual produce of its land 
and labour, but to the accidental discovery of 
more abundant mines than any that were 
known before. The increase of the quantity 
of gold and silver in Europe, and the increase 
of its manufactures and agriculture, are two 
events which, though they have happened 
nearly about the same time, yet have arisen 
from very different causes, and have scarce 
any natural connection with one another. The 
one has arisen from a mere accident, in which 
neither prudence nor policy either had or could 
have any share; the other, from the fall of 
the feudal system, and from the establishment 
of a government which afforded to industry 
the only encouragement which it requires, 
some tolerable security that it shall enjoy the 
fruits of its own labour. Poland, where the 
feudal system still continues to take place, is 
at this day as beggarly a country as it was before 
the discovery of America. The money 
price of corn, however, has risen; the real value 
of the precious metals has fallen in Poland
in the same manner as in other parts of 
Europe. Their quantity, therefore, must have 
increased there as in other places, and nearly 
in the same proportion to the annual produce 
of its land and labour. This increase of the 
quantity of those metals, however, has not, it 
seems, increased that annual produce, has neither 
improved the manufactures and agriculture 
of the country, nor mended the circumstances 
of its inhabitants. Spain and Portugal
the countries which possess the mines
are, after Poland, perhaps the two most beggarly 
countries in Europe. The value of the 
precious metals, however, must be lower in 
Spain and Portugal than in any other part of 
Europe, as they come from those countries to 
all other parts of Europe, loaded, not only 
with a freight and an insurance, but with the 
expense of smuggling, their exportation being 
either prohibited or subjected to a duty
In proportion to the annual produce of the 
land and labour, therefore, their quantity must 
be greater in those countries than in any other 
part of Europe; those countries, however, 
are poorer than the greater part of Europe
Though the feudal system has been abolished 
in Spain and Portugal, it has not been succeeded 
by a much better. 
As the low value of gold and silver, therefore, 
is no proof of the wealth and flourishing 
state of the country where it takes place; so 
neither is their high value, or the low money 
price either of goods in general, or of corn in 
particular, any proof of its poverty and barbarism
But though the low money price, either of 
goods in general, or of corn in particular, be 
no proof of the poverty or barbarism of the 
times, the low money price, of some particular 
sorts of goods, such as cattle, poultry