John Locke

Some Considerations of the Consequences of the Lowering of Interest and the Raising the Value of Money

Part 5

This business of Money and Coinage is by some Men, and amongst them some very Ingenious Persons, thought a great Mystery, and very hard to be understood. Not that truly in it self it is so: But because interessed People that treat of it, wrap up the Secret they make advantage of in mystical, obscure, and unintelligible ways of Talking; Which Men, from a preconceiv'd opinion of the difficulty of the subject, taking for Sense, in a matter not easie to be penetrated, but by the Men of Art, let pass for Current without Examination. Whereas, would they look into those Discourses, enquire what meaning their Words have, they would find, for the most part, either their Positions to be false; their Deductions to be wrong; or (which often happens) their words to have no distinct meaning at all. Where none of these be, there their plain, true, honest Sense, would prove very easie and intelligible, if express'd in ordinary and direct Language.

That this is so, I shall shew, by examining a Printed Sheet on this Subject, Intituled, Remarks on a Paper given in to the Lords, &c.

Remarks. 'Tis certain, That what place soever will give most for Silver by weight, it will thither be carried and Sold: And if of the Money which now passes in England, there can be 5 s. 5 d. the Ounce, given for Standard Silver at the Mint; when but 5 s. 4 d. of the very same Money can be given elsewhere for it, it will be certainly brought to the Mint; and when Coin'd, cannot be Sold, (having one Penny over-value set upon it by the Ounce) for the same that other Plate may be bought for, so will be left unmelted; at least, 'twill be the Interest of any Exporters, to buy Plate to send out, before Money; whereas now 'tis his Interest to buy Money to send out before Plate.

Answ. The Author would do well to make it intelligible, how, of the Money that now passes in England, at the Mint can be given 5 s. 5 d. the Ounce, for Standard Silver, when but 5 s. 4 d. of the same Money can be given elsewhere for it. Next, How it has one Penny over-value set upon it by the Ounce; So that, When Coin'd it cannot be Sold? This, to an ordinary Reader, looks very Mysterious; and, I fear, is so, as either signifying nothing at all, or nothing that will hold.


1. I ask who is it at the Mint, that can give 5 s. 5d. per Ounce, for Standard Silver, when no body else can give above 5 s. 4 d.? Is it the king, or is it the Master Worker, or any of the Officers? For to give 5 s. 5 d. for what will yield but 5 s 4 d. to any body else, is to give One sixty fifth part more than it is worth. For so much every thing is worth, as it will yield. And I do not see how this can turn to account to the king, or be born by any body else.

2. I ask, How a Penny over-value can be set upon it by the Ounce; so that it cannot be sold? This is so Mysterious that I think it near impossible. For an equal quantity of Standard Silver will always be just worth an equal quantity of Standard Silver. And it is utterly impossible to make 64 parts of Standard Silver equal to, or worth 65 parts of the same Standard Silver; which is meant by setting a Penny over-value upon it by the Ounce, if that has any meaning at all. Indeed, by the Workmanship of it, 64 Ounces of Standard Silver may be made not only worth 65 Ounces, but 70 or 80. But the Coinage, which is all the Workmanship here, being paid for by a Tax, I do not see how that can be reckon'd at all: Or if it be, it must raise every 5 s. and 4 d. Coin'd, to above 5 s. 5 d. If I carry 64 Ounces of Standard Silver in Bullion to the Mint, to be Coin'd; shall I not have just 64 Ounces back again for it in Coin? And if so, Can these 64 Ounces of Coin'd Standard Silver, be possibly made worth 65 Ounces of the same Standard Silver uncoin'd; when they cost me no more, and I can, for barely going to the Mint, have 64 Ounces of Standard Silver in Bullion turned into Coin? Cheapness of Coinage in England, where it costs nothing, will, indeed, make Money be sooner brought to the Mint, than any where else: because there I have the convenience of having it made into Money for nothing. But this will no more keep it in England, than if it were perfect Bullion. Nor will it hinder it from being melted down; because it cost no more in Coin than in Bullion: And this equally, whether your Pieces, of the same Denomination, be lighter, heavier, or just as they were before. This being explain'd, 'will be easie to see, whether the other things, said in the same Paragraph, be true or false; and particularly, whether 'twill be the Interest of every Exporter, to buy Plate to send out before Money.

Remark. 'Tis only barely asserted, That if Silver be raised at the Mint, That 'twill rise elsewhere above it; but can never be known till it be tried.

Answ. The Author tells us in the last Paragraph, That Silver that is worth but 5 s. 2 d. per Ounce at the Mint, is worth 5 s. 4 d. elsewhere. This, how true, or what inconvenience it hath, I will not here examine. But be the Inconvenience of it what it will, this raising the Money he proposes as a Remedy: And to those who say, upon raising our Money Silver will rise too, he makes this Answer, That it can never be known, whether it will Or no, till it be tried. To which I reply, That it may be known as certainly, without Trial, as it can, That two Pieces of Silver, that weighed equally yesterday, will weigh equally again to morrow in the same Scales.

There is Silver (says our Author) whereof an Ounce (i.e. 480 Grains) will change for 5 s. 4 d. (i.e. 496 Grains) of our Standard Silver Coin'd. To morrow you Coin your Money lighter; so that then 5 s. 4 d. will have but 472 Grains of Coin'd Standard Silver in it. Can it not then be known, without Trial, whether that Ounce of Silver, which to day will change for 496 Grains of Standard Silver Coin'd, will change to morrow but for 472 Grains of the same Standard Silver Coin'd? Or can any one imagine that 480 Grains of the same Silver which to day are worth 496 Grains of our Coin'd Silver, will to morrow be worth but 472 Grains of the same Silver, a little differently Coin'd? He that can have a Doubt about this till it be tried, may as well demand a Trial to be made, to prove, That the same thing is equiponderant, or equivalent to it self. For I think it is as clear, That 472 Grains of Silver are equiponderant to 496 Grains of Silver, as that an Ounce of Silver, that is to day worth 496 Grains of Standard Silver, should to morrow be worth but 472 Grains of the same Standard Silver, all Circumstances remaining the same, but the different Weight of the Pieces stamp'd: which is that our Author asserts, when he savs, That 'tis only barely asserted, &c. What has been said to this, may serve also for an Answer to the next Paragraph. Only I desire it may be taken notice of, That the Author seems to insinuate that Silver goes not in England, as in Foreign Parts, by Weight: Which is a very dangerous as well as false Position; and which, if allowed, may let into our Mint what Corruption and Debasing of our Money one pleases.

Remark. That Our Trade hath heretofore furnished us with an Overplus, brought home in Gold and Silver, is true; But that we bring home from any place more Goods than we now Export to it, I do not conceive to be so. And more Goods might be sent to those parts; but by reason of the great value of Silver in this part of the World, more Money is to be got by Exporting Silver, than by any other thing that can be sent; and that is the reason ofit. And for its being melted down, and sent out, because it is so heavy, is not by their Paper denied.

Answ. That we bring home from any place more Goods than we now export, (The Author tells us) he doth not conceive.

Would he had told us a Reason for his Conceit. But since the Money of any Country is not presently to be changed, upon any private Man's groundless Conceit, I suppose this Argument will not be of much weight with many Men. I make bold to call it a groundless Conceit: For if the Author please to remember the great Sums of Money are carried every Year to the East-Indies, for which we bring home consumable Commodities; (though I must own that it pays us again with advantage.) Or if he will examine, how much only two Commodities, wholly consum'd here, cost us yearly in Money, (I mean Canary Wine and Currants) more than we pay for with Goods Exported to the Canaries and Zant; besides the Over-ballance of Trade upon us in several other places, he will have little reason to say, he doth not conceive we bring home from any place more Goods than we now Export to it.

As to what he says concerning the melting down and Exporting our Money, because it is heavy. If by heavy, he means, because our Crown-pieces (and the rest of our species of Money in proportion) are 23 or 24 Grains heavier than he would have them Coin'd: This, whoever grants it, I deny upon grounds, which I suppose, when examined, will be found clear and evident.

Indeed when your Debts beyond Sea, to answer the Over-ballance of Foreign Importations, call for your Money, 'tis certain the heavy Money, which has the full Standard Weight, will be melted down and carried away: because Foreigners value not your Stamp or Denomination, but your Silver.

He would do well to tell us what he means by the great value of Silver in this part of the World. For he speaks of it as a Cause, that draws away our Money more now than formerly; or else it might as well have been omitted as mentioned in this place: And if he mean, by this part of the World, England; 'tis scarce Sense to say, That the great Value of Silver in England should draw Silver out of England. If he means the Neighbouring Countries to England, he should have said it, and not doubtfully this part of the World. But let him, by this part of the World, mean what he will, I dare say every one will agree, That Silver is not more valu'd in this, than any other part of the World; nor in this Age, more than in our Grandfathers Days.

I am sorry if it be true, what he tells us, That more Money is to be got by Exportation of Silver, than by any other thing that can be sent. This is an Evidence, that we bring home more Goods than we Export. For till that happens, and has brought us in Debt beyond Sea, Silver will not be Exported; but the Overplus of Peoples Gain, being generally laid up in Silver, it will be brought home in Silver; and so our People will value it as much as any other, in this part of the World.

The Truth of the Case in short is this. Whenever we, by a losing Trade, contract Debts with our Neighbours; they will put a great Value on our Silver, and more Money will be got by transporting Silver than any thing can be sent: Which comes about thus. Suppose that by an Overballance of their Trade (whether by a Sale of Pepper, Spices, and other East-India Commodities, it matters not) we have received great quantities of Goods, within these two or three Months, from Holland, and sent but little thither; so that the accounts ballanced between the Inhabitants of England and the United Provinces, we of England were a Million in their Debt: What would follow from hence? This: That these Dutch Creditors, desiring to have what is due to them, give Order to their Factors and Correspondents here, to return it to them. For enquiring, as we do, what are the effects of an over-ballance of Trade, we must not suppose, they invest their Debts in Commodities, and return their Effects that way. A Million then being to be returned from England to Holland in Money, every one seeks Bills of Exchange: but Englishmen not having Debts in Holland to answer this Million, or any the least part of it, Bills are not to be got. This presently makes the Exchange very high; upon which the Bankers, &c. who have the command of great quantities of Money and Bullion, send that away to Holland in Specie, and so take Money here to pay it again there, upon their Bills, at such a rate of Exchange, as gives them five, ten, fifteen, &c. per Cent. profit: And thus sometimes a 5 s. Piece of our mill'd Money may truly be said to be worth 5 s. 3 d. 4 d. 6 d. 9 din Holland. And if this be the great value of Silver in this part of the World, I easily grant it him. But this great value is to be remedied, not by the alteration of our Mint, but by the Regulation and Ballance of our Trade. For be your Coin what it will, our Neighbours, if they over-ballance us in Trade, will not only have a great value for our Silver, but get it too; and there will be more to be got by Exporting Silver to them, than by any other Thing can be sent.

Remarks. The alteration of the Coins in Spain and Portugal are no way at all like this. For there they alter'd in Denomination near half, to deceive those they paid, with paying those to whom they owed one Ounce of Silver, but half an Ounce for it. But in the alteration here designed, to whoever an Ounce of Silver was owing, an Ounce will be paid in this Money; it being here only designed, that an Ounce of Money should equal an Ounce of Silver in value, at home, as well as abroad, which now it does not.

Answer. In this Paragraph the Author Confesses the alteration of the Coin in Spain and Portugal was a cheat; but the alteration here design'd, he says, is not: But the Reason he gives for it is admirable: viz. Because they there alter'd in Denomination near half, and here the Denomination is alter'd but 5 per Cent; for so in Truth it is, whatever be designed. As if 50 per Cent. were a Cheat, but 5 per Cent. were not; because perhaps less perceiveable.

For the two Things that are pretended to be done here by this new Coinage, I fear will both fail, viz.

1. That to whomsoever an Ounce of Silver is owing, an Ounce of Silver shall be paid in this Money. For when an Ounce of Silver is Coin'd, as is proposed, into 5 s. 5 d. (which is to make our Money 5 per Cent. lighter than it is now) I that am to receive an 100 l. per Annum, Fee Farm Rent; shall I in this new Money receive 105 l. or barely 100 l.? The first I think will not be said. For if by Law you have made it 100 l. 'tis certain the Tenant will pay me no more. lf you do not mean that 400 Crowns, or 2000 Shillings of your new Coin shall be an 100 l. but there must be 5 per Cent. in tale, added to every 100, you are at the charge of new Coinage to no other purpose but to breed Confusion. If I must receive 100 l. by tale, of this new Money for my Fee Farm Rent, 'tis demonstration that I lose five Ounces per Cent. of the Silver was due to me. This a little lower he confesses in these Words, That where a Man has a Rent-SEC, that can never be more, this may somewhat affect it, but so very little, that it will scarce ever at all be perceived. This very little is 5 per Cent. And if a Man be cheated of that, so he perceives it not, it goes for nothing. But this loss will not affect only such Rents, as can never be more, but all Payments whatsoever, that are contracted for before this alteration of our Money.

2. If it be true, what he affirms, That an Ounce of Money doth equal an Ounce of Silver in value abroad, but not at home; then this part of the Undertaking will also fail. For I deny that the Stamp on our Money does any more debase it here at home than abroad, or make the Silver in our Money not equal in value to the same weight of Silver every where. The Author would have done well to have made it out, and not left so great a Paradox only to the credit of a single Assertion.

Remarks. And for what is said in this Bill to prevent Exportation, relates only to the keeping in our own Coin, and Bullion, and leaves all Foreign to be Exported still.

Awswer. What the Author means by our own and Foreign Bullion, will need some Explication.

Remarks. There is now no such thing as Payments made in weighty and Mill'd Money.

Answer. I believe there are very few in Town, who do not very often receive a mill'd Crown for 5 s. and a mill'd half Crown for 2 s. 6 d. But he means I suppose in great and entire Sums of mill'd Money. But I ask, if all the clip'd Money were called in, whether then all the Payments would not be in weighty Money;. and that not being call'd in, whether if it be lighter than your new mill'd Money, the new mill'd Money will not be melted down as much as the old? Which I think the Author there confesses, or else I understand him not.

Remark. Nor will this any way interrupt Trade; for Trade will find its own course; the Denomination of Money in any Country no way concerning that.

Awswer. The Denomination to a certain Weight of Money, in all Countries, concerns Trade; and the alteration of that necessarily brings disturbance to it.

Remark. For if so be it occasions the Coining more Money.

Answer. He talks as if it would be the occasion of Coining more Money. Out of what? Out of Money already Coin'd, or out of Bullion? For I would be glad to know where it is.

Remarks. It may be some gain to those that will venture to melt down the Coin, but very small loss (if any) to those that shall be paid in the New: 'Tis not to be denied, but that where any Man has a Rent-SEC, that can never be more, this may somewhat affect it; but so very little, 'twill scarce ever at all be perceived.

Answer. As much as it will be gain to melt down their Coin, so much loss will it be to those who are paid in the new. Viz. 5 Per Cent. which I suppose, is more than the Author would be willing to lose, unless he get by it another way.

Rem. And if the alteration designed should have the effect of making our Native Commodities any way dearer.

Answ. Here the Author confesses, that proportionably as your Money is raised, the Price of other things will be raised too. But to make amends, he says, Rem. It does at the same time make the Land which produces them, of more than so much more in value.

Answ. This more than so much more in value, is more than our Author, or any body else for him, will ever be able to make out.

The Price of Things will always be estimated by the quantity of Silver is given in exchange for them. And if you make your Money less in Weight, it must be made up in Tale. This is all this great mystery of raising Money, and raising Land. For Example, The Mannor of Blackacre would yesterday have yielded One hundred thousand Crowns, which Crown-pieces, let us suppose numero rotundo, to weigh each of them an Ounce of Standard Silver. To day your new Coin comes in play, which is 5 Per Cent lighter. There's your Money raised: The Land now at Sale yields One hundred and five thousand Crowns, which is just the same One hundred thousand Ounces of Standard Silver. There's the Land raised. And is not this an admirable Invention, for which the Publick ought to be at above One hundred thousand pounds Charge for new Coinage, and all your Commerce put in disorder? And then to recommend this Invention, you are told, as a great Secret, That, Had not Money, from time to time, been raised in its Denomination, Lands had not so risen too.. which is to say, Had not your Money been made lighter, fewer Pieces of it would have bought as much Land as a greater number does now.

Rem. The loss of Payments there spoken of, will, in no sort, be so great as if the Parties to whom these Debts are owing, were now bound to receive them in the Money now Passes, and then to melt the same down; so at this they will have no cause to complain.

Answ. A very good Argument! The Clippers have rob'd the Publick of a good part of their Money (which Men will, some time or other, find in the Payments they receive) and 'tis desired the Mint may have a liberty to be before-hand with those to whom Debts are owing. They are told they will have no reason to Complain of it, who suffer this loss; because it is not so great as the other. The damage is already done to the Publick, by Clipping. Where at last it will light, I cannot tell. But Men who receive Clip'd Money, not being forced to melt it down, do not yet receive any loss by it. When Clip'd Money will no longer change for weighty, then those who have Clip'd Money in their hands, will find the loss of it.

Rem. 'Twill make the Customs better paid, because there will be more Money.

Ans. That there will be more Money in Tale, 'tis possible: That there will be more Money in Weight and Worth the Author ought to shew. And then, whatever becomes of the Customs, (which I do not hear are unpaid now) the king will lose in the Excise above Thirty thousand pounds per Annum. For in all Taxes where so many Pounds, Shillings, or Pence are determined by the Law to be paid, there the king will lose 5 Per Cent. The Author here as in other places, gives a good reason for it. For, His Majesty being to pay away this Money by Tale, as he received it, it will be to him no loss at all.

As if my receiving my Rents in full Tale, but in Money of undervalue 5 Per Cent. were not so much loss to me, because I was to pay it away again by Tale. Try it at 50 Per Cent. The odds only is, That one being greater than the other, would make more noise. But our Author's great refuge in this is, That it will not be perceiv'd.

Remark. If all Foreign Commodities, were to be Purchased with this new Species of Money sent out; we agree, That with 100 l. of it there could not be so much Silver or other Commodities bought, as with 100 l. in Crown Pieces as now Coined; because they would be heavier; And all Coin in any Kingdom, but where 'tis Coined, only goes by Weight; and for the same weight of Silver, the same every where still will be bought; and so there will, with the same quantity of Goods. And if those Goods should cost 5 per Cent. more here in England than heretofore, and yield but the same Money (we mean by the Ounce abroad) the same Money brought home and Coin'd, will yield the Importer 5 per Cent. more at the Mint than it heretofore could do, and so no damage to the Trader at all.

Answ. Here Truth forces from the Author a confession of Two Things, which demonstrate the vanity and uselesness of the Project.

1. That upon this change of your Coin, Foreign Goods will be rais'd.

2. Your own Goods will cost more 5 per Cent. So that Goods of all kinds being thereupon raised; wherein consists the raising of your Money, when an Ounce of Standard Silver, however minc'd, stamp'd, or denominated, will buy no more Commodities than it did before? This confession also shews the Falshood of that dangerous supposition, That Money, in the Kingdom where it is Coin'd, goes not by weight, i.e. is not valued by its Weight.

Rem. 'Tis true, The Owners of Silver will find a good Market for if, and no others will be damaged; but, on the contrary, the making Plenty of Money will be an advantage to all.

Answ. I grant it true, That if your Money were really raised, 5 per Cent. the Owners of Silver would get so much by it, by bringing it to the Mint to be Coin'd. But since, as is confessed, Commodities will (upon this raising your Money) be raised too 5 per Cent. this alteration will be an advantage to no body but the Officers of the Mint, and Hoarders of Money.

Rem. When Standard Silver was last raised at the Mint, (which it was, from 5 s. to 5 s. and 2 d. the Ounce, in the 43d. of Eliz.) and, for above Forty Years after, Silver uncoin'd was not worth above 4 s. 10 d. the Ounce, which occasion 'd much Coining; and of Money, none in those days was Exported: Whereas Silver now is worth but the very same 5 s. and 2 d. the Ounce still at the Mint, and is worth 5 s. 4 d. elsewhere. So that if this Bill now with the Lords does not happen to Pass, there can never any Silver be ever more Coin'd at the Mint; and all the mill'd Money will in a very little time more be destroyed.

Ans. The reason of so much Money Coin'd in Queen Elizabeth's Time, and afterwards, was not the lessening your Crown Pieces from 480 to 462 Grains, and so proportionably all the rest of your Money, (which is that the Author calls, raising Standard Silver from 5 s. to 5 s. 2 d. the Ounce) but from the over-ballance of your Trade, bringing then in Plenty of Bullion, and keeping it here.

How Standard Silver (for if the Author speaks of other Silver, it is a fallacy) should be worth its own Weight in Standard Silver at the Mint, (i.e. 5 s. 2 d. the Ounce) and be worth more than its own Weight in Standard Silver, (i.e. 5 s. 4 d. the Ounce) in Lombard-street, is a Paradox that no body, I think, will be able to comprehend, till it be better Explain'd. It is time to give off Coining, if the value of Standard Silver be lessened by it; as really it is, if an Ounce of Coin'd Standard Silver will not exchange for an Ounce of uncoin'd Standard Silver unless you add 15 or 16 Grains overplus to it: Which is what the Author would have taken upon his word, when he says, Silver is worth Five Shillings Four Pence elsewhere.

Five Shillings Four Pence of Money Coin'd at the Mint, the Author must allow to be at least 495 Grains. An Ounce is but 480 Grains. How then an Ounce of uncoin'd Standard Silver can be worth Five Shillings Four Pence, (i.e. How 480 Grains of uncoin'd Standard Silver can be worth 495 Grains of the same Standard Silver, Coin'd into Money) is unintelligible; unless the Coinage of our Mint lessens the Value of Standard Silver.


COIN and Interest are Two Things of so great moment to the Publick, and of so great concernment in Trade, that they ought, very accurately to be examin'd into, and very nicely weigh'd, upon any Proposal of an alteration to be made in them. I pretend not to have Treated of them here as thy deserve. That must be the work of an abler Hand. I have said something on these Subjects, because you requir'd it. And, I hope, the readiness of my Obedience will excuse, to You, the Faults I have committed, and assure You that I am,


Your most humble Servant.

John Lock.