England's treasure by forraign trade/Chapter 8
The enhancing or debasing our Moneys cannot enrich the Kingdom with treasure, nor hinder the exportation thereof.
There are three ways by which the Moneys of a Kingdom are commonly altered. The first is when the Coins in their several Denominations are made current at more or less pounds, shillings or pence than formerly. The second is when the said Coins are altered in their weight, and yet continue currant at the former rates. The third is when the Standard is either debased or enriched in the fineness of the Gold and Silver, yet the Moneys continue in their former values.
In all occasions of want or plenty of Money in the Kingdom we do ever find divers men, who using their wits for a remedy to supply the first and preserve the last, they fall presently upon altering the moneys; for, say they, the raising of the Coins in value will cause it to be brought into the Realm from divers places in hope of the gain: and the debasing of the monies in the fineness or weight will keep it here for fear of the loss. But these men pleasing themselves with the beginning onely of this weighty business, consider not the progress and end thereof, whereunto we ought especially to direct our thoughts and endeavours.
Money is the measure of our other means.For we must know, that money is not only the true measure of all our other means in the Kingdom, but also of our forraign commerce with strangers, which therefore ought to be kept just and constant to avoid those confusions which ever accompany such alterations. For first at home, if the common measure be changed, our Lands, Leases, wares, both forraign and domestique must alter in proportion: and although this is not done without much trouble and damage also to some men, yet in short time this must necessarily come to pass; for that is not the denomination of our pounds shillings and pence, which is respected, but the intrinsique value of our Coins; unto which we have little reason to add any further estimation or worth,A notable service for Spain. if it lay in our power to do it, for this would be a special service to Spain, and an act against our selves to indear the commodity of another Prince. Neither can these courses which so much hurt the Subjects, any way help the King as some men have imagined: for although the debasing (for once only) to the Mint, yet all this and more would soon be lost again in the future great In-comes of His Majesty, when by this means they must be paid yearly with mony of less intrinsique value then formerly; Nor can it be said that the whole loss of the Kingdom would be the profit of the King, they differ infinitely: for all mens estates (be it leases, lands, debts, wares or mony) must suffer in their proportions, whereas His Majesty should have the gain only upon so much ready mony as might be new Coined, which in comparison, would prove a very small matter: for although they who have other estates in mony are said to be a great number,All the ready mony in the Kingdom is esteemed at little more than one million of pounds. and to be worth five or ten thousand l. per man, more or less, which amounts to many millions in all, yet are they not possessed thereof all together or at once, for it were vanity and against their profit to keep continually in their hands above forty or fifty pounds in a family to defray necessary charges, the rest must ever run from man to man in traffique for their benefit, whereby we may conceive that a little mony (being made the measure of all our other means) doth rule and distribute great matters daily to all men in their just proportions: And we must know likewise that much of our old mony is worn light, and therefore would yield little or no profit at the Mint, and the gain upon the heavy, would cause our vigilant neighbours to carry over a great part thereof, and return it presently in pieces of the new stamp; nor do we doubt that some of our own Countrymen would turn Coiners and venter a hanging for this profit, so that His Majesty in the end should get little by such alterations.
Yea but say some men, If His Majesty raise the mony, great store of treasure would also be brought into the Mint from forraign parts, for we have seen by experience that the late raising of our Gold ten in the hundred, did bring in great store thereof, more than we were accustomed to have in the Kingdom, the which as I cannot deny, so do I likewise affirm, that this Gold carried away all or the most part of our Silver, (which was not over-worn or too light) as we may easily perceive by the present use of our Moneys in their respective qualities: and the reason of this change is, because our Silver was not raised in proportion with our Gold, which still giveth advantage to the Merchant to bring in the Kingdoms yearly gain by trade in Gold rather than in Silver.
Secondly, if we be inconsistent in our Coins, and thereby violate the Laws of forraign Commerce; other Princes are vigilant in these cases to alter presently in proportion with us, and then where is our hope? or if they do not alter, what can we hope for? For if the stranger-merchant bring in his wares, and find that our moneys are raised, shall not he likewise keep his Commodities untill he may sell them dearer? and shall not the price of the Merchants exchange with forraign Countries rise in proportion with our Moneys? All which being undoubtedly true, why may not our Moneys be carried out of the Kingdom as well and to as much profit after the raising thereof, as before the alteration?
But peradventure some men will yet say, that if our Moneys be raised and other Countries raise not, it will cause more Bullion and forraign Coines to be brought in than heretofore. If this be done, it must be performed either by the Merchant who hath exported wares, or by the Merchant who intents to buy off our Commodities: and it is manifest that neither of these can have more advantage or benefit by this Art now, than they might have had before the alteration of the Money. For if their said Bullion and forraign Coins be more worth than formerly in our pounds, shillings and pence, yet what shall they get by that when these moneys are baser or lighter, and that therefore they are risen in proportion? So we may plainly see that these Innovations are no good means to bring treasure into the Kingdom, nor yet to keep it here when we have it.