« AnteriorContinuar »
have no evidence to show that there had been any new sources of production opened out to the world. Some influence may have been exercised, however, by the measures of confiscation directed, in our own country, against monastic institutions, and the distribution of their admittedly large stores of plate, existing in various forms, by Henry VIII. It is not necessary, however, to enter with very great minuteness into an examination of the decline in 1527, as we have subsequent and more violent changes to note, the causes of which are more clearly demonstrable.
At the close of the fifteenth century the maritime countries and cities of Europe had attained an acquaintance with the navigation of distant seas, surprising in an age when there existed very scanty means of handing down the experience and discoveries of one generation to another; and pre-eminent in their possession of this element of power and commercial prosperity were the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. For a considerable period their fleets, engaged in buccaneering exploits upon the ocean, were the terror of the peaceful traders of other countries of Europe. At the conclusion of that century the enterprise and skill of Columbus, aided by the liberality of Queen Isabella of Spain, were rewarded by the discovery of the West Indies and the American continent; and vast fields of adventure and wealth were opened to the commercial classes of Europe. A few years later, the great achievement of Columbus was followed by the invasion and conquest of Mexico by Cortez, from which results most important to the commerce and the social and political condition of Europe flowed. It is painful enough to peruse the history of this most daring achievement; yet it is worthy of attentive study, as intimately connected with the subject which we have in hand. The conquest of Mexico by Cortez and his followers may be said to have tapped the stores of the precious metals of that hitherto unknown country, which had been accumulating for ages; and led ultimately, after the commission of horrible atrocities by the conquering adventurers, to the discovery of the South Sea. The subjugation of
Peru by Pizarro followed next; and the mineral wealth of its Incas, together with that of Mexico, began to pour in upon Europe, and to stimulate, unfortunately, not so much the regular transactions of commerce and industry, as the strife, religious and territorial, of the leading powers. Enriched by this stream of the precious metals, Charles V. of Spain was enabled to exercise the supreme sway in Europe, and to involve it in a succession of expensive wars, with varying success, by which the progress of commerce and industry was materially interrupted, and great deterioration in the social condition of its various communities was caused. The production of commodities useful to the world was interrupted, whilst the large sums lavished in subsidies to the allies of the contending powers induced a lavish expenditure in luxuries previously unheard of, and in pageantries and pomps, designed to win the support of the wavering, or to flatter the vanity of the fast friends of either party. Hired bands of adventurers of the Mike Lambourne and Dugald Dalgetty stamp roamed over every state of Europe. Taking service with the Emperor, with Francis, or with Gustavus-with Naples or Venice, Genoa or Burgundy-became the foundation of the fortunes of the well-born, and furnished the means of dissipation and outrage to the dissolute and depraved. A campaign in the Low Countries, during this transition period, was resorted to by every man of broken fortune, who possessed valour in addition to the disinclination for the peaceful pursuits of industry; and their return to the various localities of their birth was marked by showers of gold pieces, earned as pay or grasped as spoil, in an abundance and with a degree of recklessness almost inconceivable. From the most worthless of this class came the bullies and braggarts of the age of Elizabeth and the first Jamesthe Alsatian gentry, to whom assassination and cutting a purse formed a more congenial occupation than either honest toil, however lucrative, or meeting a foe manfully, face to face.
In the mean time, whilst the Spaniards had been ransacking the world in one direction, the westward, and appropriating its treasures, the Por
tuguese had been proceeding in another, the eastward, and the concerns and conquests of the marauding adventurers of the two nations became rather entangled. The Portuguese became possessed of the Brazils; but when their country after a while became subjected to Spain, the Dutch, and subsequently the East India Company, absorbed between them their joint acquisitions. At the same time Great Britain was establishing herself upon the North American continent, and very shortly began to derive from that country a considerable addition to her commerce. "Going the Virginian voyage" became in English society the popular mode of seeking for tune-as an adventure to Mexico or Peru was to the wild spirits of the Spanish kingdom. Cruising on the Spanish main-intercepting the valuable cargoes of gold and silver in the course of their transmission to Europe - was a pursuit followed by many English adventurers, as well as by those of other maritime countries; and an additional means was thus afforded of diffusing the stream of the precious metals over other nations besides Spain. Degraded generally as were those engaged in this illicit and often murderous trade, it was, nevertheless, not without its beneficial results, particularly as it promoted maritime adventure and nautical skill. We may also attribute to it the great improve ment which took place about this period in naval architecture. The buccaneer, and since his times the slaver, were a proscribed race. Their hand was considered to be against every man, and every man's hand was against them. Hence, fast-sailing ships and the smartest of seamen were imperatively necessary to success. In modern days a similar improvement in the construction and sailing properties of ships is being more peaceably effected by the requirements of the passenger trade from this country to our colonies, and other locations sought by the teeming industry of our industrious masses.
The first effect of this vast increase of the supply of the precious metals in Europe was, unfortunately, not the promotion of the peaceful pursuits of commerce and industry, but, instead, an increased ability conferred upon the monarchs and great nobles to gra
tify their territorial or personal ambition. There was a disturbing element existing in France, in Germany, and other countries-the question of religion-which was readily fanned into a flame, which for half a century plunged Europe into the horrors of war, both international and civil. In the Low Countries, the principal seats of trade in the north of Europe, taxation was levied by Philip II. and his generals, especially upon the trading classes, who were the only possessors of money and of the precious metals. Professor Smyth tells us of the Duke of Alva, in his admirable course of Lectures on Modern History, that
"Philip was supposed at the time to possess all the wealth of the world, and he certainly did possess a large portion of the gold and silver of it; but it was
now to be shown that ambition and harsh government could exhaust even Mexico and Peru. Alva found himself obliged to have recourse to taxation, and to require from the industry and wealth of the Flemings themselves that constant supply which all the mines and slaves of his master were insufficient to afford him. And now for once it happened that a total ignorance of the principles of political economy in the rulers was eventually favourable to the happiness of the people.
"The Duke insisted, 1st, Upon 1 per cent upon all goods, movable and immovable; 2dly, On an annual tax of 20 per cent upon all immovable goods or heritage; and, lastly, of 10 per cent on all movable goods, to be paid on every sale of them."
No policy could have been devised more certain to dry up the sources of wealth and to depress commerce and industry. The result which followed was gratifying and ultimately fortunate for the oppressed subjects of Philip. They resisted, under the able leadership of the Prince of Orange and successive chiefs; and, after a struggle of nearly half a century's duration, succeeded in not only throwing off the yoke of Spain, but, by the formation of seven of the most wealthy provinces into a defensive league, which was the foundation of the Republic of Holland, were enabled to protect themselves against the aggressions of Austria.
The same reckless ambition, evidenced in the struggle between France and Spain for the possession of Italy,
inflicted an overwhelming blow upon the commercial cities and states of that unhappy country, which was made the arena of conflict between these unprincipled combatants. They were driven by constantly recurring necessities to ally themselves first with one party and afterwards with another, until both their material wealth and their commerce escaped from their grasp. In the mean time, the natural result occurred to the two countries themselves. In Spain we had exhibited as expressed in the graphic language of the writer from whom we have just quoted,
"The real sources of power neglected; immense revenue and no wealth; possessions multiplied abroad and no prosperous provinces at home; the strength of the country exhausted in maintaining a powerful army, not for the purposes of defence but of tyranny and injustice; and the whole system of policy, in every part and on every occasion, a long and disgusting train of mistake and guilt."
And in France:
"The same neglect of the real sources of strength and happiness; the produce of the land and labour of the community employed in military enterprises; the genius of the nobles made more and more warlike; military fame and the intrigues of gallantry (congenial pursuits) converted into the only objects of anxiety and ambition; licentiousness everywhere the result, in the court and in the nation; the power of the crown unreasonably strengthened; the people oppressed with taxes, their interests never considered; the energies of this great country misdirected and abused; and the science of public happiness (except, indeed, in the arts of public amusement and splendour) totally unknown or disregarded."
England at this period was, comparatively, aloof from any share in Continental conflicts, but she did not
34 Henry VIII. 36 Henry VIII.
altogether escape from the contagion of the vices of their courts, and the demoralisation which pervaded the masses of European society. Whilst the dissolution and plunder of the monastic institutions supplied Henry VIII. and his nobles with large stores of the precious metals, and increase of revenue, arbitrary taxation was sought to be exacted from the trading and other classes; but the attempt was successfully resisted, principally by the spirit evinced by the monied and trading classes of the metropolis, and in the reign of Edward VI. the acts passed for so levying taxation by the mere will of the Crown were repealed. The arts and manufactures, partly through the dread of this arbitrary taxation, made little progress under Henry VIII.; whilst the expenditure of the court, the nobility, and the gentry, enormously increased in this and the two subsequent reigns. Large amounts, however, of the precious metals, and of costly produce, were poured in upon the country, through the ordinary channels of a growing foreign trade, in addition to the supplies which, as we have previously stated, were brought in and squandered by the military and other adventurers, who had sought their fortune either in the wars of Europe, or in the newly discovered countries of the world.
These facts of history, carefully weighed in connection with other concurrent circumstances, will afford a clue to the violent changes which occurred in prices, and in the value of coined money between the latter end of the reign of Henry VIII. and the close of Elizabeth's reign. The following were the values of the pound sterling at the periods mentioned:
37 Henry VIII.
0 4 72
into £30 in the first period, and in the time of Elizabeth into £36. The purity of both metals was lowered extensively by Henry, and a most extravagant seigniorage was exacted at the mint. His successor Edward VI. restored the coinage to nearly its former purity, and materially reduced the seigniorage. In the reign of Elizabeth the value of the pound was increased, a pound of silver being coined into £3 sterling, instead of £3, 12s. The effect of the policy of these sovereigns will be seen in the advance of the convertible power of the pound from 4s. 73d. to 20s. and upwards. Something is due also to the relinquishment of the arbitrary power of taxation, claimed by Henry VIII. and previous monarchs. Confidence was thus infused amongst the mercantile and monied classes. Capital was more freely embarked in trading adventures, as well as in domestic investments. But even in the Elizabethan period, the purchasing power of the pound sterling remained very far below what it had been a century before. The mass of mineral wealth which had been poured through Spain into the countries of Europe had not yet found the means of safe and profitable employment. Gold and silver were thus in excess of their requirements as instruments of exchange. Their increase had been greater than that of the production of commodities, and their value naturally declined, although only temporarily, until commerce and industry gained upon the means provided by nature for the exchange of their products.
A careful examination of the history of this period will also furnish data to enable us to speculate upon the probable results of the increase which is being derived at present from the rich gold-fields of Australia and California. In examining this subject, however, we must proceed very cautiously; and, especially, we must consider the differing circumstances of the times in which the most important additions which have as yet been made to the supplies of the precious metals in circulation throughout the world were received, and the rate as well at which they were received. The wealth of Mexico and Peru was almost heaped upon the world, and
had probably been the accumulation of centuries. That of Australia and California has had to be disemboweled from the earth, by the persevering energy of their miners. It has flowed towards us steadily, and thus far has been absorbed by the new commerce which they have created. Its fortunate discoverers were independent human beings, not mere belots; and such beings, in new countries especially, have wants which must be gratified, and the supply of which is affording most profitable employment to the working masses in this and other countries. The population of Mexico and Peru engaged in mining pursuits toiled for masters who exercised over them an arbitrary power. The wealth which they raised from the soil passed from their possession without contributing perceptibly to their own comfort and enjoyment, or to the prosperity of the country from which it was derived. On its advent in Europe it found only a collection of nations and powers, engaged in continual strife, with little commerce and less manufactures to require a circulating medium. But the gold of Australia and California has been brought into a world whose commercial energy and enterprise will be the wonder of succeeding ages, and the advancement of which in the arts of industry has been for a long period repressed only by the want of a medium for conducting efficiently its vast transactions, and which has had to be supplied by representative currencies liable to derangement at the mere whim of statesmanship, or by events not within the power of the wisest either to foresee or avert. We shall not, however, pursue this question further in the present paper. Our subject will lead us in a subsequent one to investigate the rate of increase in the stocks of the precious metals subsequently to the first discovery of Mexico and Peru; the effect of the growth of the trade with India in abstracting the precious metals from Europe; and, what is of especial interest at the present moment, the effect of the discovery of the mines of Siberia, and of the Ural Mountains, upon the growth of the ambitious power of Russia, and upon the general commerce of Europe.
PEACE AND WAR:
Ille dies Latio tenebris
It was on a railway journey that I made the acquaintance of my friend Irenæus.
He is a Member of the Society of Friends because his father was before him, and of the Peace Society also, because he was talked into it by his wife; but in spite of that, a very good fellow; and it is impossible to look at his quick eye, broad chest, and hammer fist, and believe him when he tells you, Θέσιν διαφυλάττων, that he could witness the sack of his house, if necessary, and the carrying away captive of Mrs and the Misses I., while yet, according to his principles, he could oppose none but passive resistance. I like the man, while I detest his principles; and I like him for perhaps the odd reason, that I do not believe a single word he says; and yet, for all that, I do not doubt his word in the common sense of doubting a man's word; I simply don't believe him because I know that he deceives himself, and is a highspirited, generous fellow, in spite of his advocacy of meanness and abuse of generosity-yes, even a chivalrous man, in spite of his denunciations of chivalry; and if I were placed in the situation of having to defend myself against odds, I know no one whom I would rather see standing by to see fair play than my friend Irenæus with a twig of oak in that vice of a fist of his.
We became acquainted first, as I said, on a railway journey-a good opportunity for some kinds of conversation-not for all. There were two pictures in the Academy Exhibition of 1853, one of the interior of a secondclass, the other of that of a first-class carriage. They were both good, both natural; but in one was a mournful silence, in the other a sort of a tête-atête-rather, I think, out of place on the rail; and this made the former picture perhaps the more agreeable. One represented a widow taking her sailor son to Southampton to see him
VOL. LXXVI.-NO. CCCCLXIX.
off, silent and thoughtful, while the minutes of their being together were diminishing with railway speed; and the homeliness, or rather ugliness, of the carriage enhanced the effect, stuck over as it was with advertisements, and with one, more prominent than the rest, headed "No more grey hairs." The other picture represented an old gentleman and his daughter, with a young gentleman opposite, bound for some fishing-station. The old gentleman had been mesmerised by the Morning Chronicle, and was fast asleep; and the young gentleman had taken the opportunity of making acquaintance with the young lady, beginning, doubtless, with the electric telegraph of looks. Generally interesting as the situation was, I have no hesitation in saying that the young people were beginning a love-story under disadvantageous circumstances, in spite of the convenient drowsiness of papa. The voice requires to be unduly raised to overcome the noise of the train, and thus even in the best cases its low and most effective tones are lost, so that it would appear better taste to do the whole thing by pantomime. Imagine" Get your tickets ready" interpolated on an avowal, and the first seizure of the little hand in a fit of eloquence witnessed by a hairy guard, and "Swindon" in a husky growl breaking down some fairy air-castle of possible, yet scarcely probable happiness. No! a railway carriage is not quite a place for love-making, though young people will make love there, if they cannot elsewhere, and small blame to them. Nor is it a good place for discoursing of poetry, metaphysics, or the fine arts, or any other subject that requires, if not bodily comfort, at least an absence of discomfort, to favour a calm interchange of thoughts. But it is a first-rate place for talking politics or polemics. These are subjects in the treating of which loudness of voice