« AnteriorContinuar »
cultivated amongst them, probably for centuries, although whence derived has not been satisfactorily determined. Their public roads alone afforded evidence of an advanced stage of civilisation, and a vastness of design, combined with power to construct, which have struck every traveller with astonishment. Humboldt has recorded that "the roads of the Incas were among the most useful and stupendous works ever executed by man." And in one respect they were greatly in advance of the similar works constructed by the Romans. Small buildings or stations were erected along them, at distances variously estimated at from a league to five miles asunder, which served as resting-places for a numerous corps of chasquis or couriers, by whose means despatches could be forwarded from one extreme of the empire to another, it is said, at the rate of a hundred and fifty miles per day. Poetry, in the form of ballads, was cultivated amongst the Peruvians; and it is even said that they had advanced as far as dramatic composition.
Far different became their condition after they had been subjected to the arbitrary dominion of their conquerors. The Spaniards were merciless in their exactions of labour from their Indian slaves. Regarding gold as the means by which every luxury and enjoyment were brought within their reach, human life even was not permitted to stand in the way of their obtaining it. Their victims were literally worked into the grave, as the cheapest asylum which offered itself for those who could work no longer. In the mean time, every outrage which the most atrocious wickedness could suggest, was practised towards this inoffensive people. The most boundless scope was given to licentiousness. The young maiden was torn, without remorse, from the arms of her family, to gratify the passion of her brutal conqueror. The sacred houses of the Virgins of the Sun were broken open and violated, and the cavalier swelled his harem with a troop of Indian girls, making it seem that the Crescent would have been a more fitting symbol for his banner than the immaculate Cross.
We need scarcely ask what must
have been the social condition of Spain herself, when her population had been reinforced by the return of successive bands of these ruthless and utterly depraved adventurers. We know, in fact, that society throughout other European countries was contaminated by their presence.
The influx of gold and silver from the Spanish colonies into Europe can scarcely be said to have proceeded with any regularity before the middle of the sixteenth century. Humboldt estimates the annual supply as follows:
From 1556 to 1578, £448,000 sterling. 1579, 1600, 280,000
A large portion of this increase must obviously have come from other sources than the American mines; such, for example, as the melting down of plate in various countries of Europe, to provide the funds for war. It is estimated that £42,000,000 sterling was abstracted during the period in question, by the extension of the commerce of Europe, and of England in particular, with Asia and other eastern countries, leaving £130,000,000 as the coined money of Europe. The effect of so large an addition to the circulating medium was a rapid enhancement of the prices of commodities in every country. In the reign of Henry VII., during a period regarded as one of great dearth, the price of wheat was 3s. 4d. per quarter. From 1583 to 1592 the average was 20s. 9d., and from 1593 to 1602 it had risen to 33s. 3d. Prices of commodities generally throughout Europe were enhanced in similar proportion. Don Sancho Moncada, who published his work at Madrid in 1619, after boasting" de que el oro el plata eran cose cha esta nacion," adds, that "before the discovery of the Indies he who possessed one hundred reals was as rich as he who now enjoys five hundred; for with the abundance of gold
and silver, their value has fallen, and the value of whatever has to be bought with money has likewise increased." Of course, in the last sentence the worthy Spaniard only tells us the same story a second time, though in a different form. The principal sufferers were the monarch and great landowners, who derived their incomes from the soil, in the shape of fixed incomes from fines, chief rents, or underleases for lives or years, and the labouring classes, whose wages were not raised in proportion to the increased cost of living.
The increase of gold and silver during the seventeenth century has been estimated at £337,500,000. Deducting one-tenth of this amount for the supply of the East, we have £304,750,000 left for the wants of Europe. Of this amount Mr Jacob (vol. ii. 131) puts down £297,000,000 as the amount of coined money. The population during the century had increased 40 per cent, which would tend to check excessive prices, owing to the increased demand for coin to be used for enlarged exchange transactions.
During the latter portion of the seventeenth century, there was a considerably increased amount of the precious metals employed in the decoration of Catholic churches and in private dwellings. Watches, both in gold and silver cases, became more generally worn, as these watches became cheapened in their manufacture. A larger quantity of the precious metals was used for gilding, plating, lace, &c., and the possession of various utensils of gold and silver became an object of ambition to the nobility and gentry throughout Europe.* From 1700 to 1809, the increase of the precious metals is estimated £706,464,434, the annual produce at having been, during the century, nearly £8,000,000 sterling. The stock of coin, however, is only estimated, in 1809, at £380,000,000 sterling. Of course, in this estimate, as in previous ones, wear and tear is taken into consideration. In regarding the slow increase in the stock of coin up to the close of the eighteenth century, as compared with the in
Jacob, vol. ii. p. 131.
681 metals in other forms, we should bear crease in the stock of the precious in mind that, in many of the principal trading countries of Europe, the ciently carried on by means of paper domestic transactions could be effirepresentative money, thus enabling to be employed for other purposes. a large portion of the precious metals
of the progress of our supply of these Mr Jacob thus winds up his sketch metals up to the beginning of the present century :
hending with it England, and taking into "Viewing Europe as a whole, comprebecome a wealthy and independent power, the view the United States of America, which had risen from low beginnings to whole mass of material wealth had inwe are compelled to believe that the creased at a rate much beyond that which increase of the precious metals. If we has been shown to have been the rate of could be led to estimate the rate of the advance in material wealth to have been of metallic wealth, we might expect that very much beyond the rate of the increase the prices of commodities in general would have fallen, instead of having risen in the however, be borne in mind, that times of period under consideration. It must,
internal turbulence favour the conversion of articles of metallic wealth from articles tion, especially, was proceeding in the of luxury into current coin. This operaearly part of the wars which originated in the French Revolution. In France royal and noble families who became itself the most tangible property of the emigrants was their plate and jewels. The same was the case with the churches, monasteries, and other public establishments. Whether that plate was sold to it was confiscated by the decrees of the supply the means of emigration, whether Convention, or devoted to unauthorised pillage, the greater part of it would, for be converted into coined money. the sake of more facility in its circulation, Italy, where the churches, shrines, and religious institutions were richly furnished with ornaments of silver and gold, the greater part was seized either by the assailants or defenders, and converted into coin. The same course of events Austria, in the parts of Southern Germany, may be observed in the Netherlands, in in Prussia, and the north of Germany, and, though at a later period, in Saxony, and, finally, in Portugal and Spain."
We must briefly advert to the progress of the supply from the mines of Russia. Their yield, up to the commencement of the present century, is included in the previously given estimates of Mr Jacob.
From a very early period it was known that the soil of Russia was rich in the possession of metals, especially lead, copper, and iron; and every encouragement was of fered by successive sovereigns to encourage the pursuits of mining, smelting, &c., as the surest mode of developing the resources of the empire. The influx of foreign miners was courted; and on the accession of Peter the Great, that sovereign wrought in the first regular minework, situated near Moscow, which had been granted to two foreigners a Dane and a Dutchman-previously to his setting out on his first tour into foreign countries, from which he secured the services of an assayer, and a number of experienced miners, with a master at their head. It was not, however, until the early part of the eighteenth century that gold ore was discovered in the mountains of Olonitz. About the same period it was discovered that the Kolhyvan contained a considerable proportion of silver, amounting to from seven to eight per cent. In 1745 the working of these mines, generally known as the Altayan, was undertaken by the Crown. Under the Empress Elizabeth the mines of Russia increased amazingly in productive yield,-in part from more skilful management, and in part from new discoveries. The Beresof gold mine on the Ural mountains was opened in the year 1754, and up to the year 1788thirty-two years-had produced about 120 pood of gold, valued at 1,198,000 roubles. The mines of Nertschink were also most productive. It is probable, however, that at no time previous to the beginning of the present century had the annual yield of gold in Russia reached the amount of £500,000 sterling. Since the accession of the present Emperor Nicholas, the mines of the Ural and the Altai increased still more considerably, and
a large additional supply was afforded to the world by the discovery that portions of the great eastern regions of Siberia are highly auriferous. Roderick Murchison estimates—Anniversary Address, Royal Geological Society, vol. xiv. 1844-that, a few years ago, this distant region did not afford a third part of the gold which the Ural mountains produced; but by recent researches, an augmentation so rapid and extraordinary has taken place, that, a year or two ago, the eastern Siberian tracts yielded considerably upwards of £2,250,000 sterling, raising the gold produce of the Russian empire to near £3,000,000 sterling.
As in the case of the mineral products of Mexico and Peru, and those of earlier gold-producing countries, comparatively no portion of this abundant yield of the precious metals has fallen to the share of the classes by whose instrumentality they were raised from the bowels of the earth. Previously to the reign of the Empress Elizabeth, the iron, copper, lead, and salt mines of Russia were chiefly owned either by the Crown or by certain of the great landowners and noblemen, with a few foreigners, who had been induced to bring the benefit of their mining experience into the country, by the inducement of extraordinary privileges held out to them by Peter the Great. The workers were chiefly boors, belonging to such great landowners and noble families, or to the Crown. Their pay, of course, was the minimum for which the lowest caste of the peasantry could be maintained in strength sufficient to enable them to endure very severe toil. On the discovery of the silver mines of Kolhyvan and the gold mines of Ural, in the middle of the eighteenth century, they were taken possession of by the Crown, which already owned a portion of the iron, salt, &c. mines, besides exacting a heavy royalty upon others, especially those which were upon Crown lands. Under the reign of the Empress Catherine, we are informed *—
The political and economical constitution of the mines underwent a thorough
View of the Russian Empire during the Reign of Catherine II., and to the close
of the Eighteenth Century. By WILLIAM TOOKE, F.R.S.
change, as the Empress, in pursuance of the great plan she had formed of newmodelling her empire, reduced also this department of the public administration, by several ordinances and precepts, to a well-combined system. Not only was the management of the mines greatly simplified, but likewise the privileges
formerly granted to miners were confirmed and enlarged by many important concessions, even at the expense of several imperialties and prerogatives of the Crown. By the present constitution (1800), the mines belong either to the Crown, or to public institutions, or to private individuals. The first possesses all the beforementioned gold and silver mines; the share which it has in the copper and iron mines cannot be accurately ascertained, though it appears, from authentic statements, to be about one-sixth of the former, and of the latter one-eighth part.
"Under the direction of the cabinet are all the gold and silver mines of Kolhyvan and Nertschink. The rest of the Crown mines are dependent upon the senate. They are managed by directors and overseers, who deliver their accounts to the finance office of the government, and thence receive their orders. Besides these offices, there is also a Kautora at St Petersburg, for the separation of the gold from the silver, over which the general-procureur has the inspection. The private mines received in the late reign so many and such diverse grants by law that it would not be easy to point to a country which can show in this respect similar privileges and immunities. According to the former constitution, the right of working mines properly belonged to those who had the right to possess land; a privilege, it is well known, enjoyed only in Russia by the nobility. The ordinances of Catherine II. grant the right of opening mines, and erecting works at them,1st, to all owners of land, particularly; 2dly, to the nobility; and, 3dly, likewise to the therein-named burghers, and the burghers of the first and second guilds. Yet, from the commencement of mining, there have been unnoble proprietors of mines, who belonged to the class of merchants; but their mines are either in crown-lands, or in the country of the Tartars, Bashkirs, Vogules, and other Siberian nations; and in the former case the forests are given them only to cut, for a stipulated time or for ever, with permission to work the mines; but the fee simple of the land was never made over to them."
These concessions were apparently liberal, and were certainly most politic; for whilst they promoted
VOL. LXXVI. NO. CCCCLXX.
the exploration of the soil in search of iron, copper, and other metals, the Crown was always ready to step in when such exploration resulted in the discovery of a supply of the precious metals, on the ground that gold or silver to be owned or worked by private individuals. To the extension of mining operations which followed we owe the discovery of gold in the Eastern Siberian mountains, which has so very greatly enlarged the production, as shown by Sir R. Murchison.
the laws of Russia forbid mines of
It will scarcely appear singular, after the description we have given of the Russian system of mining, and of the manner in which mining property was held in that country, that we find its increase in wealth attended by very little improvement in the condition of the masses of its population for at least a century and a half past. In the year 1788, the total annual produce of Russia was estimated at 300,000,000 roubles. Her exports in the same year were estimated at 27,500,000 roubles. the same time Russia possessed a monetary circulation of 230,000,000 roubles, of which, however, only 76,000,000 roubles consisted of gold and silver coin. The amount of copper coin amounted to 54,000,000 roubles, and of paper money to 100,000,000 roubles. It is an obvious sign of the general poverty of a people when so large a portion of its transactions can be carried on in the lowest-priced metal which is used as coin. In 1800, the quantity of specie had been largely increased, and was increasing; but the copper money showed the greatest share of this increase the quantity coined in the year being 2,000,000 roubles against 1,700,000 roubles of gold and silver. In the same year, 1,300,000 roubles of foreign coinage of various sorts was added to the circulation of the country. The exports were yearly exceeding the imports; and the value was balanced by imports of foreign specie. Russia had extended, and indeed created, a lucrative manufacturing system, which not only supplied the greater portion of her population with many of the necessaries of life, but had as early 2 Y
as 1800 begun to furnish considerable quantities of goods for exportation; and being added to her previous exports of copper, iron, bismuth, &c., increased largely the balance of trade in her favour, and hence increased also the influx of the precious metals into the empire. Amongst the leading manufactures are those of cordage and sail-cloth, linen, cotton, silk, woollen cloth, carpets, leather, earthenware, porcelain, charcoal, firearms, cannons, vitriol, saltpetre, potash, distilled liquors, soap, isinglass, oils, &c. In the most profitable of these the Crown is largely interested. The remainder are chiefly carried on by the nobility and large landowners, or by wealthy capitalists, aided by the cheaplyfurnished labour of the Crown boors, or the serfs of the possessors of the soil. Under such a system, the wealth acquired naturally flows into few hands, and has thus far done little towards elevating the masses of the people; and an independent middle class can scarcely be said to exist in the empire.
The question naturally arisesWhat has become of the large amount of the precious metals which has been exhumed from the soil during the last hundred years, and been claimed by the Crown? More especially, what has been the destination of the largely-increased yield during the reigns of the Emperor Nicholas and his predecessor? The costly defensive works in the Black Sea and the Baltic, Sebastopol, Cronstadt, the fortifications of the Aland Isles, and of the various Russian forts, readily account for the dispersion of vast sums amongst foreign engineers, and in the purchase of the material required, cannon, &c. The powerful fleets at present shut up in their harbours by the Allied Powers, and a portion of which has been destroyed or sunk by the Russians themselves, account for the outlay of a very large amount of money. Aggressive wars have been a constant drain, both of the treasures of the Crown and the incomes of the nobility and landowners, the latter of whom are additionally impoverished by most
extravagant habits of living. The subtle diplomacy which Russia carries on in every country with which she has relations, is a source of vast expenditure to the State; and Europe knows by experience how widely spread and lavishly conducted is the system of bribery and corrup tion carried on in every foreign court, by which she is continually endeavouring to urge forward her schemes of aggression, and to gratify her ambition for extended empire. The increased attention which the present war has invited to the actual condition of the Russian people, has disclosed to us a state of things existing amongst the most favoured classes-the nobility and great landowners-which one could scarcely have conceived compatible with the profitable privileges which those classes have so long enjoyed, and the large revenues which they have been deriving from the soil, and the vast mineral wealth which it yields. We have had it clearly shown that it is only by heavy advances of foreign capital that a great portion of the produce of Russia can be brought to the various ports of shipment; that the bulk of her grain, tallow, hides, hemp, and flax, and other articles of export, are mortgaged far in advance of the period when they can be delivered; in fact, that the foreigner may fairly be said to furnish the bulk of the monied capital by which the cultivation of the empire is carried on.
But it is not so much the yield of the precious metals in Russia as her commercial policy, by which she has succeeded in carrying out the ambitious designs of respective rulers, and extending gradually the boundaries of the empire. From a very early period that policy has been of an extremely restrictive character; and hence Russia has been constantly drawing the precious metals from every nation with which she has traded, and especially from European countries. The following table of the exports and imports at St Petersburg, and other evidence derived from commercial bistory, extending over more than a century, will show with what success and constancy this policy has been pursued.