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the midst of his three concubines, as I had never before seen, luxurious dallying and profaneness.' A week afterward he asT sisted at the proclamation of James II. and records his feelings thus: 'I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaueness, gaming and all dissoluteness, and as it were total forget fulness of God (it being Sunday evening) which this day se'nnight I was witness to, the king sitting and toying with his concubines Portsmouth, Cleavcland and Mazarine, &c., a French boy siuging lovesongs in that glorious gallery, whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at basset round a large table, a bank of at least 2000 in gold before them, upon which two gentlemen who were with me made reflexions with astonishment. Six days after was all in the dust!'
The circumstances which ensued while they roused the spirit of the nation awakened also its better feelings. It was a struggle wherein the vital interests of civil and religious freedom were at stake; and though it is not, and ought not to be dissembled, that unworthy means were employed for promoting a cause just and noble in itself, we were preserved by the special blessing of Providence from all those dangers which any eruption of political or spiritual fanaticism must have produced. The example of the court under the two sister queens then became as favourable to good morals as it had lately been injurious. Among the minor causes of general amendment something may be ascribed to the societies for the reformation of manners, to the disuse of masks, and to the abolition of those sanctuaries which hail continued after all notions of religious protection had ceased, and were become more evidently pernicious than they had ever been in the worst ages of superstition. But the main causes are unquestionably to be found in that . purer spirit of literature which, from the days of Addison, has predominated; and most of all in the stability and character of our church establishment. Whether the great and manifest improvement of society has been general among us, or whether, while some classes have been happily progressive, others have not been deteriorated both in their physical and moral condition, affords matter for serious and important inquiry, upon which we have more than once entered. Of this, however, we are sure that never at any time has there prevailed in this country, a more general and generous desire of diminishing the evils and miseries by which mankind are afflicted whether at home or abroad. This too js certain, that as it is the visible interest of our rulers to promote by every possible means the improvement and happiness of the people, (for upon their morals and their well-being the security of the state depends,) so it is not less their desire than their duty. We say this not merely in hope, still less in adulation, but with the confidence of knowledge, and upon the evidence of facts.
o 3 Art.
Art. VIII.—Thoughts and Details on the High and Low Prices of the last Thirty Years. By Thomas Tooke, F.R.S. London. 1823.
"\\TE look upon this work of Mr. Tooke as a very valuable * * contribution to the science of political economy. It is an inquiry into the causes of the fluctuations which have occurred during the last thirty years in the prices of corn and other commodities; and in the pursuit of it he adduces a large and interest* ing collection of facts. This mode of treating his subject we consider as peculiarly judicious. At all times an extensive cohlection of facts relative to the interchange of the various commodities of the commercial world, which is more within the reach of intelligent merchants than any other class of men, cannot but be of great importance to the science of political economy; but it is more particularly required at the present moment, when it must be acknowledged that some of our ablest writers in this science have been deficient in that constant reference to facts and experience, on which alone it can be safely founded, or further improved.
Mr. Tooke's work is divided into four Parts. The principal causes of the variations in the prices of commodities, he thinks, may be classed under three general heads: 1 st. Alterations in the value of the currency. 2d. War, with its attendant taxes, and the return to peace. 3d. Varieties of the seasons, (i. p. 4.) The effects of these causes on prices he considers in the three first Parts, according to the order named; and to these he has added a fourth, consisting of valuable tables of prices from 1 782 to 1822.
Before he begins his inquiry into the influence to be ascribed to alterations in our currency, he very properly defines the meaning which he attaches to the terms depreciation of money and currency, excess or over issue of paper.
By depreciation of money, when applied generally, he understands the diminished value of the precious metals in the commercial world.
By depreciation of the currency, he means that state of it in which the coin is of less value in the market than by the Mint regulations it purports to be, or in which the paper that is compulsorily current is of less value than the coin in which it promises to be payable.—Part i. p. 8.
We quite agree with Mr. Tooke in the propriety and utility of the definitions which he has adopted with regard to coin and currency; and although a more general meaning has frequently been given to depreciation, and writers consequently appear to be warranted in so using it; yet we are persuaded that it would greatly
contribute contribute to clear ideas on the subject, if we were to confine the term depreciation exclusively to a deviation in defect from the standard which the coin or paper currency professes to represent, and denominate exclusively a. Jail or rise in the value of money or bullion any change which affects the standard itself, whether in any particular country, or generally. We cannot therefore agree with Mr. Tooke in his application of the term depreciation of money to a diminished value of the precious metals in the commercial world; and we were not a little surprized to find, that among his definitions there was no reference whatever to the alterations in the value of money and bullion in particular countries, alterations which have been acknowledged by all economists, and must be allowed to be especially connected with Mr. Tooke's subject.
Having thus, however, cleared the way by defining his terms, he proceeds with his facts and reasonings; and the conclusions at which he arrives are, in substance, that prices have been no further affected by the alterations in the value of the currency, (or only in the slightest degree further,) than to the extent of the difference between gold and paper; that, with the exception of commodities particularly taxed, or increased by charges on importation, or extra demand for government, there is no observable coincidence between a rise of price during war, and a fall during peace; and that the fluctuations of prices which have taken place during the last thirty years are, with the exception of the difference between paper and bullion, and the few exceptions noticed before, almost exclusively attributable to the variations of the seasons.
We cannot say that we are able to accompany Mr. Tooke to the full extent of these conclusions; but the excellency of his mode of treating the subject is, that he has put his reader in possession of so large a range of facts applicable to the questions treated of, that he is not only enabled to judge whether Mr. Tooke's conclusions are well founded, but furnished with the means of drawing other conclusions interesting to the science of political economy, which seem strictly and legitimately to follow from the facts advanced.
From a careful attention to these facts, we should say that Mr. Tooke's work distinctly proves the four following propositions:—
First, that all exchangeable value, and consequently the prices of all commodities, depend entirely upon the supply compared with the demand, and are no further affected by the labour required to produce them, than as this labour is the main condition of their supply.
2d. That the supply of commodities, as compared with the
o 4 demand, demand, is much more affected, and for a longer period, by the variations in the seasons, than has hitherto generally been supposed.
3d. That when the supply of commodities is in some degree deficient compared with the demand, whether this arises from the increase of demand, or the diminution of supply, the state of trade is brisk, profits are high, and mercantile speculations are greatly encouraged; and on the other hand, when the supply is abundant compared with the demand, there is a period of comparative stagnation, with low profits, and very little encouragement to mercantile speculation.
4th. That when these periods of deficient or abundant supply compared with the demand, are of considerable duration, which is found by experience to be frequently the case, they are necessarily accompanied by a fall or rise in the value of the precious metals in the country where they take place, according to any mode of estimating their value, which has ever been considered as approximating to the truth.
Each of these propositions appears to us to be of fundamental importance to the science of political economy; and the inquiry into the proofs of them, contained in Mr. Tooke's work, will show us at the same time to what extent he may be considered as having established his own conclusions.
In reference to the first proposition, or the universal influence of supply and demand on prices, both temporarily and permanently, we should say that the facts of all the four Parts of Mr. Tooke's work, and the reasonings of the first three, conspire to place, the effects of demand and supply in such a light as to leave the truth of the proposition beyond the reach of any reasonable doubt. In the first Part, all that rise of prices beyond the difference between paper and gold, which was coincident in time with the Bank restrictions, Mr. Tooke uniformly and distinctly attributes to the state of the supply compared with the demand. "He is indeed disposed to think that this rise was neither so great nor so general as has been usually supposed; but the facts which he adduces do not bear him out in this opinion: he observes,
'It has further been asserted, that labour as well as necessaries experienced a progressive advance during the period referred to. I have already suggested grounds of objection to the admission of the wages of carpenters in and near London as affording a sufficient ground of inference with respect to the general rate of wages in the country; and the same objection applies, in point of principle, to the admission of the higher price paid for some other descriptions of labour, which happened to be in great relative demand. It is clear that, during the progifis of a war on such a scale as the last, there roust have been an unusual usual demand for full grown able bodied men; and the encouragement held out to a great extension of tillage, during the same period, might be supposed to have added to the demand; and as the supply could barely within the period keep pace with the extra demand, a considerable portion of that description of persons might naturally be expected to command a high rate of wages. Of this description were soldiers, sailors, labourers in husbandry, carpenters, bricklayers, domestic menservants, and many others.'—Part i. p. 76.
Now we confess that we should, without hesitation, call this a general rise in the money price of labour; nor do we think that the propriety of the term would be impeached by the instances which Mr. Tooke produces (I. pp. 81.83.) of a low price of manufacturing labour in some of the years between 1808 and ISIS, in which it is well known that anti-commercial decrees, by obstructing the vent for our exportable products, had thrown our manufacturers into a state of great distress. It was not surely that the demand for able bodied men was peculiar and unusual, in reference to a period of considerable length, but that the want of demand for manufacturing labour was peculiar and unusual, in reference to certain portions of that period.
On the same principle we cannot consider the instances which Mr. Tooke produces of an occasional low price of corn and butcher's meat (pp. 72. 75.), after the Bank restriction, and before the termination of the war, as invalidating the proofs of a great and general increase in the prices of provisions. The mass of facts brought forward, after allowing all due weight to the exceptions referred to, show, in our opinion, a decided rise in the average price both of necessaries and labour, beyond the difference between paper and gold.
But though we cannot attach so much importance to these exceptions as Mr. Tooke is disposed to do, we are persuaded that he would fully agree with us in attributing both the general rise and the temporary fall of prices during the war to the state of the demand and the supply. And after the termination of the war, . Mr- Tooke's opinion is expressed as strongly as possible, that the fall of prices was owing exclusively to the abundance of the sup.ply compared with the demand. After producing numerous proofs of this in the earlier periods of the peace, he remarks, with regard to a later period, (Part i. p. 191.)—
'Of the fact of the abundance of supply of the leading articles of consumption, there cannot, I should think, be any reasonable doubt. Let any cornfactor be asked whether the supplies of wheat and flour in Mark Lane, at the close of 1821, and through the first half of 1822, were not quite sufficient to have produced the fall of prices, and the apparent tendency to a further depression, as long as there was no security against the continuance of so overwhelming a supply, and whe