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Alexander von Humboldt: „An essay on the fluctuations in the supplies of gold, with relation to problems of political economy“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <https://humboldt.unibe.ch/text/1838-Ueber_die_Schwankungen-10-neu> [abgerufen am 22.06.2024].

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Titel An essay on the fluctuations in the supplies of gold, with relation to problems of political economy
Jahr 1840
Ort London
Nachweis
in: The Analyst. A Quarterly Journal of Science, Literature, Natural History, and the Fine Arts 10:29 (April 1840), S. 181–204.
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung; Fußnoten mit Asterisken und Kreuzen; Schmuck: Kapitälchen; Tabellensatz.
Identifikation
Textnummer Druckausgabe: V.79
Dateiname: 1838-Ueber_die_Schwankungen-10-neu
Statistiken
Seitenanzahl: 24
Zeichenanzahl: 61594

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|181|

AN ESSAY ON THE FLUCTUATIONS IN THESUPPLIES OF GOLD, with relation to problems of political economy.By ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT.

It is an ancient remark of Herodotus (iii., 106) that in the un-equal distribution of the goods and treasures of the earth, the fairestproductions have been imparted to its extremities. This observationwas not founded merely on the gloomy feeling (so characteristic ofhumanity) that happiness dwells far from us, but it expressed as wellthe fact that, by means of commercial intercourse, the Greeks, asinhabitants of the temperate zone, were dependent on distant landsfor gold and spices, amber and tin. So that when, by means of thecommerce of the Phœnicians, of the Edomites on the Gulf of Acaba,of Egypt under the Ptolemies and Romans, the long-concealed coastsof Southern Asia came gradually to be explored, the productionsof the warmer latitudes were received more direct from their nativesoil; and in the fertile imagination of man the metallic treasures ofthe earth were driven back further and further towards the east.Twice have the same people (the Arabians), during the epoch soimportant for commerce, namely, the æras of the Lagidæ and theCæsars, as well as at the conclusion of the fifteenth century—the peri-od of the Portuguese discoveries—pointed out to the western nationsthe route to India. Ophir (the Dorado of Solomon) extended to theeastward of the Ganges. There, also, was supposed to be situatedChrysé, which so long engaged the attention of the travellers of themiddle ages, and which was considered, at one time, as an island, atanother, as part of the Golden Chersonesus. The quantities of goldwhich, according to John Crawford, Borneo and Sumatra bring intocirculation, even at the present day, explain the ancient celebrityof those regions. Near to Chrysé (the land of gold, according to theideas of a systematizing geography) must symmetrically be situateda silver island (Argyré), in order to unite, as it were, the two pre-cious metals—the wealth of Ophir and the Iberian Tartessus. Thegeography of the middle ages reflected, under various forms, thegeographical fables of classical antiquity. In the works of the Ara-bians, Edrisi and Bahai, we find mentioned, at the extremity of theIndian Ocean, an island (Salahet) possessing silver sands; and near it |182| Saila (not to be confounded with Ceylon or Serendib), where dogsand apes were said to wear golden collars. In determining, however, the peculiar region of gold, and of all theprecious productions of the earth, the idea of remote distance was mixedup with that of tropical heat. “So long,” writes, in 1495, MossenTaime Teener, a Catalonian lapidary, to Christopher Columbus,“as your excellency does not find black men, you must not look forgreat things, real treasures, such as spices, diamonds, and gold.”This letter was recently found in a book printed at Barcelona in1545, and bearing the singular title of “Sentencias Catholicas delDivo Poeta Dante.” Yet the gold productiveness of the Ural moun-tains, which extend northwards to where the snow scarcely thawsduring the summer months, and the diamonds, which (during mySiberian expedition, made at the request of the Emperor Nicholas in1829) were discovered by two of my companions on the Europeandeclivity of the Ural, near to the 60th deg. of lat., do not bear outthe connexion of gold and diamonds with tropical heat and colouredmen. Christopher Columbus, who ascribes a moral and religiousvalue to gold, “because,” as he says, “whoever possesses it obtainswhat he will in this world, nay, even (by the payment of masses)brings many souls into paradise”—Christopher Columbus was en-tirely devoted to the system of the lapidary Teener. He looked forZipangu (Japan), which was given out as the gold-island, Chrysé;and while sailing (14th of November, 1492) along the coasts ofCuba, which he took for part of the continent of Eastern Asia (Ca-thay), he writes, in his log-book, “from the great heat which I suffer,the country must be rich in gold.” Thus did false analogies cause tobe forgotten what classical antiquity had recorded of the metallictreasures of the Massagetæ and Arimaspi, in the extreme north ofEurope: I say of Europe, for the barren table land of NorthernAsia, the modern Siberia, with its pine forests, was considered as awearisome continuation of the Belgian, Baltic, and Sarmatian plains. If we cast a glance over the history of commercial intercourse inEurope, we shall find the richest gold mines of ancient times in Asia.From the termination of the middle ages, and for three centurieslater, they belong to the new world. At the present day, and since thecommencement of the nineteenth century, the most abundant suppliesare again found in Asia, although in different zones of that continent.This change in the direction of the current, this compensation pre-sented by accidental discoveries in the north, when the supply of goldsuddenly ceases in the south, is deserving of serious consideration, of |183| examination according to numerical data; for in political as well as inthe observation of natural phenomena, numbers are ever decisive;they are the last, inexorable judges, in the much-disputed questions ofpolitical economy. We learn from the acute researches of Bökhs* how, on the open-ing of the east by means of the Persian war, and the great Macedo-nian expedition to further Asia, gold gradually accumulated amongthe Greeks of Europe; so that, in the age of Demosthenes, for in-stance, the precious metals were of nearly five times less value thanin that of Solon. The stream flowed at that time from east to west,and the influx of gold was so abundant that the relation of gold tosilver, which in the time of Herodotus was as 1—13, on the death ofAlexander, and for more than one hundred years afterwards, stoodas 1—10. The less general the commercial relations of the ancientworld, the greater and more sudden the changes the relative value ofgold and silver must necessarily undergo. Thus, we find in Rome that,owing to the local accumulation of one of the precious metals, shortly af-ter the conquest of Syracuse, the relation of gold to silver as 1—17⅐;while under Julius Cæsar it fell, for a time, to as low as 1—8\( \frac{13}{14} \).The more inconsiderable the quantity of bullion already existing in acountry, the more easily, by means of influx from without, may theseextraordinary fluctuations be brought about. In the modern world,the universality and rapidity of communication, which restores theequilibrium, as well as the amount of the accumulated masses of goldand silver already existing, tend to render still more stable the rela-tive value of metals. After the revolution in Spanish America theannual amount was, for several years, reduced to one-third; still theinconsiderable oscillations here and there remarkable are not to beattributed to this cause. It is quite otherwise as to the relation ofsilver to the so little accumulated, and therefore so unequally disse-minated metal, platina. Of statistical data, shewing, like those of modern days, the produc-tiveness of entire countries, we find nothing among the ancients. Thenature of their public administration did not admit of that controlwhich, in more recent times, the over-refined fiscal system of theArabians has imparted to the states of southern and western Europe.A datum like that given by Pliny (xii., 18), according to which
* Political Economy of the Athenians. See Letronne’s learned rectification of the monetary hypotheses of Gar-nier, Considerations générales sur l’Evaluation des Monnaires Grecques et Ro-maines, p. 112; 1817.
|184| the commerce with India, Serica, and Yemen, absorbed annuallyone hundred millions of sesterces in precious metals—that is, ac-cording to Letronne, for the monetary value of that time a weightof 33,000 marks of silver, equal to about £70,000 sterling (onlyhalf the annual silver production of the Saxon Erz mountains),remains isolated and problematical. Where general results arewanting, numerical examples of the partial metallic productivenessof certain mountainous countries would be the more valuable, as weshould be enabled to compare them with the modern produce of cele-brated mining districts, weight with weight in the absolute sense,without relation to the difficult consideration of gold as the measureof value of a given quantity of cereals. Treasures amassed byprinces, the result of conquest or of long-continued extortion, are onlyevidence of what has been accumulated in extensive regions duringan unknown number of ages. Results like these may be comparedwith the data which our staticians venture to put forth concerningthe masses of the precious metals existing in a state at a given period.If Cyrus, according to Pliny (xxxiii., 15), amassed by the conquest ofAsia 34,000℔s. in unwrought gold, without reckoning that wroughtinto vessels, still it is scarcely to be compared with two years produceof the Ural. On the other hand, Appian, on the authority of publicrecords, estimates the treasure of Ptolomæus Philadelphus at 740,000talents, that is, according as we calculate by the Egyptian or smallerPtolemæan talent, 1017 or 254 millions of Prussian dollars. “Suchthings,” says the celebrated author of the Political Economy of theAthenians,“ sound like fable, but I venture not to question their cre-dibility. There was among this treasure much wrought silver andgold. The countries were completely exhausted; taxes and contri-butions were collected by rapacious prætors. The revenues ofCælesyria, Phœnicia, Judea, and Samaria, alone were leased by Ptole-mæus Evergetes for 8,000 talents, whilst a Jew purchased them fordouble that sum.” Jacob, also, in his excellent work, Historical In-quiry on Precious Metals, published at the request of Huskisson,confirms the data of our celebrated philologist. The above higher va-luation will come near the present circulating medium of France andBelgium, the lower one to that of England. According to Strabo,Alexander collected in Ekbatana eighteen myriads of talents. Wemust not, however, lose sight of the fact, that while at the presentday the precious metals are proportionately distributed over extensivedistricts, and among a numerous population, they were at that timeconcentrated on a few points, or in the coffers of princes.
|185| That the golden treasures of the east, by which the western worldwas inundated, flowed from the interior of Asia, north eastward fromLadakh, from the upper course of the Oxus, from Bactria and theeastern Satrapies of Persia, there cannot exist a doubt; still it iseasier to point out the direction of the stream, than its particularsources and their relative productiveness. The scene of the fabu-lous gold-seeking ants must be sought for far from the griffins of theArimaspi. The former story would seem to belong to the table landof Raschgar and Aksu, between the parallel chains of the CelestialMountain and the Kuenlun, where the river Tarim flows into theLop. We shall again have occasion to recur to the more northernArimaspi when we come to notice the gold masses of the Ural, lyingimmediately under the surface of the ground. The fame of Indianwealth resounded in oft mistaken echoes as far as Persia. Ctesias, ofthe tribe of the Asclepiads, physician to the king Artaxerxes Mne-mon, without appearing to be aware of it, under the figure of a goldspring, most distinctly describes a melting furnace, out of which theliquid metal flows into earthen moulds. Nearer to the Greeks wereLydia, and on the rivers which have their sources in the Tmolus, thegold-producing countries of Phrygia and Colchis. The nature of thequickly exhausted beds of gold sand (gold washings), renders it intel-ligible to the practical miner why so many of the above-named andrecently revisited countries have appeared to the traveller poor ingold. How easy would it be, were we to visit at the present day theravines and torrent beds of Cuba and St. Domingo, or even the coastsof Veragua, in ignorance of the existing historical testimony, to doubtof the rich booty afforded by those districts at the conclusion of thefifteenth century? More durable, when not disturbed by externalrelations, is the subterraneous mining in permanent strata of goldore; precisely because the entire bed cannot be discovered at once,as well as because, by the process of mining by galleries, the moun-tain is only laid open by degrees, thus affording a more permanentemployment to human activity. How many of the forty gold washings so carefully described byStrabo could be recognised at the present day? This remark,founded on mining experience and analogy, is the more deserving ofplace here, now that ignorant scepticism so eagerly attacks the tra-ditions of antiquity. That part of Europe known to the Greeks wasas far inferior to Asia in metallic riches, as the whole European con-tinent has proved to be, in recent times, to the New World. The relative productiveness of Europe and America in gold at the |186| commencement of the nineteenth century, the period when the minesof the Spanish colonies were wrought with the greatest activity, wasas 1—13; in silver as 1—15. To me it even appears probable thatduring the Alexandrian and Ptolemæan periods, the proportion wouldhave been still more unfavourable for Europe, especially in gold,could statistical data of this nature be obtained. In Greece itself, itis true, that besides the originally rich silver mines of Laurion, thequantity of gold found in Thessaly, as well as in the mountains bor-dering on Macedonia and Thrace, was considerable. Iberia, alsowas to the Phœnicians and Carthaginians not merely a country ofsilver. Tarshish and Ophir (the latter either Arabia or the easterncoasts of Africa, or rather, according to Heering, the general name forrich southern countries) were the destinations of the united Hiro-So-lomonian fleets. Although, in the metallic abundance of Spain, silverfrom Bœtica and the neighbourhood of New Carthage was the chiefobject of foreign commerce, yet Gallicia, Lusitania, and especiallyAsturias, produced, during many years, 20,000 ℔s. of gold; that is tosay, almost as much as Brazil during its most flourishing period.It is not surprising, therefore, that the Spanish peninsula acquired,among the Phœnicians and Carthaginians, the reputation of a west-ern El Dorado. It is certain that in many districts which at presentdiscover but faint traces of metallic formation, the earth was at someformer period covered, near the surface, with beds of gold sand, ortraversed by solid socks containing fragments of gold ore. The localimportance of those mines in southern Europe is not to be denied,though, in comparison with Asia, their productiveness in gold mustbe deemed insignificant. The latter continent remained long thechief source of metallic wealth; and the direction of the current ofgold, as far as Europe is concerned, must be considered as from eastto west. It was Asia itself, however, or more properly the rumours spreadby travellers, during the middle ages, of the incalculable treasures ofJapan and the Southern Archipelago, which caused a sudden changein the direction of the metallic current. America was discovered,not (as was so long falsely pretended) because Columbus predicted another continent, but because he sought by the west a nearer wayto the gold mines of Japan and the spice countries in the south-eastof Asia. “The greatest geographical error (the notion of the proxi-mity of Spain to Asia) led to the greatest geographical discovery.”Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci both died in the firmconviction that they had touched upon Eastern Asia—the peninsula |187| of the Ganges. The reputation of having discovered a new continent,therefore, could give rise to no dispute between them. In Cuba, Co-lumbus wished to deliver up the credentials of his monarch to theGrand Khan of the Moguls. He mistook that island for Mangi,the southern part of Cathay (China), and there expected to find thecelestial city, Quinsay (now Hang-tscheu-fu), described by MarcoPolo. “The island of Hispaniola” (Hayti), writes Columbus to thePope Alexander the Sixth, “is Tarschisch, Ophir, and Zipangu. Inmy second voyage I have discovered 140 islands and 333 miles ofthe continent of Asia (de la tierra firme de Asia).” This West-In-dian Japan shortly produced golden pebbles (pepitas de oro) of eight,ten, and even twenty pounds weight. The newly-discovered Americanow became the chief source of the precious metals. The freshstream, flowing from west to east, shortly traversed Europe, since,owing to the increasing intercourse created by doubling the Cape ofGood Hope, a more considerable value was required in return forthe spices, silks, and colouring materials of southern and easternAsia. Before the discovery of the silver mines of Tasco (1522),in the western declivity of the Mexican Cordilleras, Americafurnished gold only; and Queen Isabella, of Castile, saw herselfcompelled considerably to alter the legal relation of the precious me-tals to each other. The early but hitherto little noticed edict ofMedina may be explained by this circumstance, and by the accumula-tion of gold on a few points in Europe. I have attempted to prove,in another place, that from 1492 to 1500 the entire importation ofgold from the then discovered regions of the New World, scarcelyafforded an yearly average of 2000 marks. Pope Alexander the Sixth, who conceived he had presented to theSpaniards one-half of the globe, received in return, from Ferdinandthe Catholic, a quantity of golden pebbles frum Hayti, for the gildingof the entablature of the basilic of Santa Maria Maggiore, “asthe first-fruits of the newly-discovered country.” An inscription onthe metal mentions, “quod primo Catholici reges ex India recepe-rant.” So great was at that time the activity of the Spanish govern-ment, that so early as 1425, as we learn from the testimony of thehistorian Munoy, a miner (Paolo Belvio) was sent with a provisionof quicksilver to Hayti, in order to expedite the gold washing by meansof amalgamation. It is very curious to read, in a newly-discoveredpart of the geography of the sherif Edrisi, recently published, “thatthe negroes in the interior of Western Africa, as well as the inhabi-tants of the fertile settlement of Wadi el Alaki (between Abyssinia, |188| Bodja, and Nubia), washed gold by means of quicksilver.” TheNubian geographer of the middle of the twelfth century speaks of itas a thing long known. During the ages of classical antiquity, wefind mention of quicksilver having been very generally used for thepurpose of detaching the gold from the threads of old fringe, never,however, of a technical application of it, on a large scale, in thoseprocesses for purifying the precious metals which have been so circum-stantially described to us by ancient writers. The relative value of gold and silver is at all times modified ratherby the discovery of new than the drying up of old sources. Thus,for the second time since the discovery of the great Antilles, theprice of gold rose about the middle of the sixteenth century, on theopening of the rich silver mines of Potosi and Zacatecas in Peru andNorth Mexico. The result of my very careful enquiries shews that,up to the opening of the Brazilian gold washings at the commence-ment of the eighteenth century, the importation of American goldbore a relation to that of silver, weight for weight, as 1 to 65. Atthe present day, this proportion, if we embrace in one view the Euro-pean commerce in metals with all parts of the world, is scarcely morethan 1 to 47. Such, at least, is the result of a comparison of themasses of both metals contemporaneously existing in Europe in astate of coinage. The data contained in the otherwise excellent workof Adam Smith, as well as the greater part of the numerical resultstherein given, are extremely incorrect, in the above-named propor-tion, by more than the half. Among the civilized, and consequentlythe European nations carrying on immediate intercourse, the relativevalue of gold and silver fluctuated, during the first hundred years sub-sequent to the discovery of the new continent, between 1—10\( \frac{7}{10} \) and1—12; in the last two centuries between 1—14 and 1—16. Thisfluctuation by no means exclusively depends upon the relative quan-tities of the metals annually obtained from the bowels of the earth.The relative value of the two metals is dependent on a varietyof causes; for example—the expenses of production, the demandfor consumption, and conversion into trinkets and other metallicwares. So many different causes acting at once, as well as thepresent facility of intercourse, and the enormous masses of pre-cious metal already accumulated in Europe, render any conside-rable or continued variation in the relative value of gold and silverimpossible. Experience has shewn this on any sudden interrup-tions of the production—such as the outbreak of the revolution inSpanish America, or the immoderate consumption of the precious |189| metals by one of the more considerable mints. In England, for in-stance, in the ten years from 1817 to 1827, more than 1,294,000marks of gold were converted into money, and yet this monopoly ofgold only raised the proportion of it to silver in London from1—14\( \frac{97}{100} \) to 1—15\( \frac{60}{100} \). Since then, the exchangeable value ofgold, as compared with silver, has undergone but little depression;for at the conclusion of the year 1837 a pound of gold might be pur-chased in London for 15\( \frac{65}{100} \)℔s. silver. We shall shortly furnish nu-merical data for the solution of the question as to what changes maybe attributed to the combined effect of the Ural and North Americanmining. The quantity of precious metals imported into Europe, from thediscovery of America until the breaking out of the Mexican Revolu-tion, was 10,400,000 Castilian marks (2,381,600 kilogrammes) ofgold, and 533,700,000 marks (or 122,217,300 kil.) of silver; theirunited value amounting to 5,940 millions of piastres, of 4s. 4d. each. The silver obtained, during this period, from the American soil,is calculated, in this valuation, at the standard of 0,903 for thepiastre, which, for 122,217,300 kils. piastre silver, will give but110,362,222 kils. pure silver; which would form a ball of83\( \frac{7}{10} \) Parisian feet in diameter. A similar reduction to form anddimensions I consider as allowable, as analogous graphical descrip-tions. If we compare the result of 318 years produce of SpanishAmerica with that of one year’s production of iron in a single countryof Europe, we shall have, according to the datum of my friend, thecelebrated geognost, Dechen, a ball of iron for Great Britain of148, for France 111, for the Prussian monarchy of 76, Parisian feetin diameter. So great is the difference in quantity of the two metals,silver and iron, in that part of the earth’s superficies accessible toman. Whilst the stream of gold and silver flowed from east to west,Spain was merely the channel of communication. But little of itremained in the country, still less in the coffers of the king.* Of
* “Ferdinand the catholic,” writes his admirer and friend, Anghiesa, a fewdays after that great monarch’s decease, “was so poor that it was difficult toprocure money to furnish decent clothing for the servants at his funeral.We give the remarkable passage from the letter to the Bishop of Tuy:—“Madrilegium villulam Regis tibi alias descripsi. Tot regnorum domi-nus, totque palmarum cumulis ornatus, christianæ religionis amplificator etprostrator hostium, Rex in rusticanâ obiit casâ, et pauper contra hominum
|190| Charles the Fifth’s pecuniary difficulties, Ranke has treated in hiswork on Spanish finance. The talented historian has, by means offresh documents, enlarged and confirmed my official proofs of theinconsiderable quantity of precious metals furnished by the Americanmines and the so-styled Inca treasures, up to the year 1545.
A more intimate acquaintance with the history of the metallic pro-ductiveness, or gradual discovery of rich and considerable beds ofore in the New World, enables us to explain why the depreciation inthe value of the precious metals, or (what is the same thing) the in-crease in the price of grain and other necessaries, first began to befelt towards the middle of the sixteenth century, and more especiallybetween 1570 and 1595. The abundance of silver from the minesof Tasco, Zacatecas, and Pachuca, in New Spain, of Potosi, Porco,and Oruro, in the Peruvian Andes, then first began to be regularlydiffused throughout Europe, and effect a material alteration in theprice of wheat, wool, and manufactured wares. The actual openingand working of the mines of Potosi, by the Spanish conquistadores,took place in the year 1545; and the famous sermon preached byLatimer before Edward the Sixth, in which he expresses his angerat the increasing price of all the necessaries of life, is of the17th of January, 1548. The English corn laws, between 1554 and1688, indicate the accumulation of the precious metals still better,perhaps, than the prices of grain collected by Fleetwood, Dupré deSt. Maur, Garnier, and Lloyd. It is well known that the importa-tion of wheat is only allowed when the price of a given measure hasreached a certain standard prescribed by the law. Now, in the reignof Queen Mary (1554), this limit was six shillings per quarter;under Elizabeth (1593), about twenty; and in the year 1604, underJames the First, more than twenty-six. These numerical data areundoubtedly of great value; still considerable caution is required inthe interpretation of them, since the problem of the prices of corn,as well as of prices in general, is a very complicated one; and varyingtheoretical views, the influence of the landowners, as well as the unequallocal accumulation of money and wares, produce their effects on the le-gislation of every period. Besides, the atmospheric changes (the meanwarmth of the spring and summer months) which affect the cultiva-tion of cereals, do not embrace at the same moment the entire agri-
opinionem obiit, vix ad funeris pompam et paucis familiaribus præbendasvestes pullatas, pecuniæ apud eum, neque alibi congestæ, repertæ sunt, quodnemo unquam de vivente judicavit.”
|191| cultural Europe. An unequal increase in population, and the conse-quently increasing intercourse, multiply the demand for metals. Inthe standard which we seek and think to find in the fluctuating pricesof grain, we have to deal with two contemporaneously fluctuatingquantities. The increased price of grain, even for a particularcountry, no more determines the relative increase of gold, than itinforms us concerning the state of weather and the quantity ofsunbeams. Data which should embrace a considerable portion ofEurope contemporaneously, are nowhere to be found; and carefulenquiries have shewn that in the north of Italy the advance in theprices of grain, wine, and oil, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth cen-tury, was much less considerable than we might have reasonably con-cluded from what is known to us of England, France, and Spain, inwhich latter countries the prices of grain, since the discovery of Ame-rica, have advanced four and even six-fold. Here it may not besuperfluous to insert a numerical result, based on the average pricesof fourteen years for the whole of the Prussian states, and drawn outwith the greatest industry, at my request, by the Counsellor Hoffmann.In the year 1838, when for a pound of gold you might purchase, inBerlin, 15\( \frac{9}{13} \)℔. of pure silver, 1611℔. of copper, and nearly 9700℔.of iron, the pound of gold, according to the averages of 1816 to1829, and 1824 to 1837, is exactly equal, in value, to 20,794℔. ofwheat, 27,655℔. of rye, 31,717℔. barley, and 32,626℔. of oats.
The apprehensions respecting the diminished importation of goldand silver from the New World—caused by the appearance ofthe important, but in Germany not sufficiently appreciated, workof Jacob on precious metals—have not been realized. The de-depressed condition of the metallic production from 1809 to 1826,notwithstanding the unsettled state of the liberated Spanish America,has revived to three-fourths of what it was at the period when I quit-ted those countries. In Mexico, in fact, according to the latest intel-ligence, for which I am indebted to the active charge d’affaires ofPrussia, Mr. von Gerolt, the produce had risen to twenty or twenty-two millions of piastres, to which, besides Zacatecas, the newly-openedmines of Fresnillo, Chihuahua, and Sonora, had principally contri-buted. During the last peaceable period of Spanish dominion, Icould not estimate the mean produce of the Mexican mines at morethan twenty-three millions of piastres. The control was then easier,as there existed only a central mining commission, and severe lawsrestricted the commerce to a more limited number of ports. Thegreatest activity which at any time prevailed was in the central mint |192| of Mexico, which, from 1690 to 1803, furnished exactly 1353 mil-lions of piastres in inland gold and silver; but, from the discovery ofNew Spain to the liberation of the country, probably 2,028 millions—that is, two-fifths of the entire amount of precious metals which thewhole of America has poured into the old continent—was furnishedduring this period. The assertions so often made, in consequence of unsuccessful spe-culations, concerning the exhaustion of the Mexican mines, are dis-proved as well by the geological formation of the country, as by themost recent experience. The mint of Zacatecas alone, during theunsettled period from 1811 to 1833, coined more than 66,332,000piastres, and in each of the last eleven years (1822 to 1833) betweenfour and five millions of piastres.
  • 1829 ... ... ... ... 4,505,180 piastres
  • 1830 ... ... ... ... 5,189,902 „
  • 1831 ... ... ... ... 4,469,450 „
  • 1832 ... ... ... ... 5,012,000 „
  • 1833 ... ... ... ... 5,720,000 „
In Zacatecas, a single gallery—the Veta Grande—which had beenwrought since the sixteenth century, and up to 1738 frequently fur-nished as many as three million piastres in a year, has brought thefollowing quantities into circulation:—
  • 1828 ... ... ... ... 117,268 marks of silver
  • 1829 ... ... ... 235,741 „
  • 1830 .. ... ... ... 279,288 „
  • 1831 ... ... ... 272,095 „
  • 1832 ... ... ... ... 258,498 „
  • 1833 ... ... ... 209,192 „
It is true that Guanaruato, on the other hand, which, even in myday, furnished annually 755,000 marks of silver, has of late yearsfallen to less than half. The produce was,
  • 1829 ......... of gold, 852 marks; ............... of silver, 260,494 marks
  • 1830 ......... „ 1058 „ ............... „ 284,386 „
  • 1831 ......... „ 622 „ ............... „ 258,500 „
  • 1832 ......... „ 1451 „ ............... „ 300,612 „
  • 1833 ......... „ 1144 „ ............... „ 316,024 „
|193| And should those highly-favoured regions ever enjoy the bless-ings of peace, the extended cultivation of the soil must necessarily layopen fresh strata. In what region of the globe besides, are we en-abled to produce instances of a similar productiveness in silver? Wemust not forget that near Tombrerete, where mines were opened asearly as 1555, the family of Fagoaga (Marquès del Apartado),within the space of five months, in an extent of ninety-six feet inlength, obtained from falls of red ore of the Veta Negra, a clear pro-fit of four millions of piastres; and in the mining district of Catorce,an ecclesiastic (Juan Floreo), between 1781 and 1783, from the shaftcalled, by the common people, “the Purse of God the Father” (laBolsa de Dios Padre), obtained three and a half millions of piastres. The quantity of gold produced in Spanish and Portuguese Ame-rica has diminished considerably more than that of silver; this dimi-nution, however, must be dated much further back than the outbreakof the political revolutions in the tropical countries. I have alreadypointed out, in another place, how erroneous were our impressions inEurope, up to the commencement of the present century, concerningthe continuance of the productiveness of the Brazilian gold washing,and how far we had confounded its flourishing days with its more re-cent condition. The report (so important for the gold trade) of theBullion committee first threw some light on this subject. I am in-debted for the most authentic details to the communications of thelate director general of mines, Freiherr von Eschwege. Jacob’s workon the precious metals contains merely some trifling additions.From 1752 to 1761 the gold produce of Minas Geraes varied from6,400 to 8,600 kils. This production is certainly considerable, andfar exceeding that of the Ural and the Altai at the present day; butwe must recollect that, in 1804, Spanish America furnished nearly10,400 kils. of gold, viz.:—
  • New Grenada ... ... ... ... ... 4,700 kilogrammes.
  • Chili ... ... ... ... ... ... 2,800 „
  • Mexico ... ... ... ... ... ... 1,600 „
  • Peru ... ... ... ... ... ... 780 „
  • Buenos Ayres ... ... ... ... ... 500
  • 10,380 kilogrammes.
The production of Minas Geraes had already fallen, in the inter-mediate 1785—1794, to 3,300 kils; between 1818 and 1820, to |194| 428 kils. This is in accordance with the account furnished by theChevalier de Schäffer, according to which, in the year 1822, onlytwenty-four arrobas (350 kils.) were delivered to the smelting fur-naces of Villarica. Since that time, owing to the exertions of someEnglish companies, the Brazilian gold mining appears to have some-what recovered itself. The decline, however, of the gold washing, israther to be attributed to the disposition to cultivate colonial produce,favoured as it is by the continued infamous importation of slavesfrom Africa, than to the exhaustion of the beds of ore. Owing tothe enormous amount of smuggling at present carried on in the Bra-zils, it were to be wished that some native thoroughly acquaintedwith the circumstances of the country would give himself the troubleto discover the annual amount of the gold produced since 1822. It is a remarkable circumstance in the history of mining carried onby Europeans, that, since the supplies of gold from the Brazils haveso far diminished, those of Northern Asia and (though but momen-tarily) of the southern districts of the United States, have attained anunexpected degree of importance. The mountain chain of the Uralis found to produce gold for nearly 17° lon. Though the Ural, inthe years 1821 and 1822, only furnished 27 to 28 pud (440 to 456kils.) gold, yet the produce of the gold sand gradually rose, in thethree following years (1823, 1824, and 1825), to 105, 206, and 237pud. According to the manuscript communication made me by theRussian minister of finance, Count Cancrien, “Return of the Preci-ous Metals obtained in the Russian Empire, and refined in the Mintof St. Petersburg,” the amount of pure gold was, in
  • 1828 ... ... ... ... ... 209 pud, and 29℔s.
  • 1829 ... ... ... ... 289 „ ...... 25
  • 1830 ... ... ... ... ... 347 „ ...... 27
  • 1831 ... ... ... ... 352 „ ...... 2
  • 1832 ... ... ... ... ... 380 „ ...... 31
  • 1833 ... ... ... ... 368 „ ...... 27
  • 1834 ... ... ... ... ... 363 „ ...... 10
At the period of the expedition which I undertook into NorthernAsia, at the request of the Emperor Nicholas, the gold washing was con-fined to the mountains on the European extremities of the Ural. TheAltai [in Mongolisch, the golden mountain] furnished merely theinconsiderable quantity (about 1,900 marks) of gold which could beobtained from the silver ore of the rich mines of Smeïnogorsk, Rid-derski, and Syrianowske. Since 1834, however, the industry of the |195| gold washers in this central part of Siberia has been unexpectedlyrewarded. A bed of gold sand has been discovered, precisely simi-lar to those on the declivity of the Ural. The house of Popof, sodeservedly celebrated for the encouragement it has afforded for im-proving the intercourse in the interior of Asia, has here also set alaudable example. Among the 398 pud (27,884 marks) of gold, pro-duced by the entire Russian Empire in 1836, 293 pud, 26℔s., werefrom the Ural, and 104 pud, 15℔s., from the Altai. In the followingyear the produce of eastern Siberia had already so much increasedthat the Altai furnished 130 pud, the Ural (from crown and privatewashings), 309 pud, wash gold. If to these amounts we add 30 pudgold, contained in the ore found in the solid rocks of the Altai, itwill give, for the entire produce of Russian gold for the year 1837,precisely 469 pud, or 7,644 kils. The gold washing in the Ural is,therefore, in a very gradual decline; the Altai, however, contributesso much to the general mass, that its produce, as compared with thatof the Ural, is already as 4—9½. Concerning the actual situation of the gold sands in the Altai, themost recent information has been communicated by a distinguishedgeologist, my former travelling companion in the southern Ural, Mr.von Helmersen. The wash gold, which for some years past hasbeen obtained in constantly increasing quantities in the eastern partof the Tunskisch district, does not belong to the great mountainchain itself, which we call the Altaian ore mountain, which Lede-bour, Bunge, and Gebler, have explored, and in which the mountainBelucha, with its inaccessible snow peaks majestically raises itself tothe height of the Wetterhorn, or the Peak of Teneriffe. The situa-tion of the golden sands is observable on both, but especially in theeastern side of a small mountain chain, which the Altai, in its coursefrom east to west, sends out in the meridian of the TelezkischenLake, and extends into the parallel of Tonsk. “On the maps,”says my friend, Mr. von Helmersen, “this mountain branch, produc-ing wash gold, is distinguished by the names of the Abakauskisch,Kusneychrisch, and Alatau mountains. In direction, internal composi-tion, and formation, it possesses the most striking similarity to theUral; it is, in fact, a repetition of it, only at less considerable length.The analogy goes so far that here, also, the eastern declivity isrich, the western much poorer, in gold. As it is precisely thiswestern declivity which has been reserved by the crown, so they arealmost entirely private adventurers who have profited by the produc-tiveness of the Alatau (this branch of the Ural running towards the |196| north).” The importance of these observations of Mr. von Helmer-sen cannot escape such geognosts as are familiar with my enquiriesconcerning the mountain system of the interior of Asia, and with theoriginal views of Elie de Beaumont concerning parallelism andrelative antiquity of the different mountain chains. I have notmyself seen the northern beds of the Altaian gold sands, as the di-rection of my journey was from Tobolsk, by Tara, through theBarakinskish steppes, to the western and southern Altai, and fromthence to the Chinese frontier posts Chunimailachu, in the provinceIli, northward from Lake Saysan. The wash-gold of the Altai contains more silver than the gold ofthe Ural. The Siberian merchants, powerfully seconded by the impe-rial mining department, have now established winter washing also;and the working this new branch of Asiatic industry is the more re-markable and satisfactory in that the workmen consist of well-paidvolunteers. According to recent accounts, for which I am indebtedto the minister of finance, Mr. von Cancrien, rich sand-beds havebeen discovered in the Salairskisch chain of mountains, as well as onthe river Biriusa, which separates the governments of Teniseisk andIrkutik. For the whole of Siberia, 240 licenses (permission towork the sand-beds containing gold), have been granted. Such, therefore, is the importance which the influx from the east-ward has attained in modern times (the principal object of the pre-sent enquiry, being to point out the fluctuations of channel in thegold trade). Those 469 pud of Uralian and Altaian gold (theproduce of the year 1837) are worth, in Prussian silver money,7,211,000 dollars, or about £1,031,650 sterling, which produce isonly an eighth less than that of Minas Geraes in Brazil, in the richestyears of the flourishing period from 1752 to 1761; one-third, how-ever, less than the produce of New Grenada, Chili, and Mexico, shortlybefore the breaking out of the revolution in Spanish America. Ifwe consider the enormous extent of the Siberian continent, and re-collect the rapid increase of gold from the Ural in the years 1822,1823, and 1824, it will appear extremely probable that the refluxfrom east to west (from Asia to Europe) has by no means reachedits maximum. The produce of eastern Siberia will, perhaps, increasemore rapidly than that of the washing of the Ural, where the richestbeds were first (and in the beginning, unfortunately, only superfi-cially) worked. In the hydrostatic separation on the washing floors,a considerable quantity of precious metals, which cling to grains ofoxide of iron and other light substances, is undoubtedly lost. This is |197| not the place to enquire whether the ingenious and plausible methodsuggested by Colonel Anassaw, intendent at Slatoust, of amalgama-tion with iron and the application of sulphur to the substance thusproduced, would be successfully applicable on a large scale. Whenwe consider the size of the masses to be smelted, the difficulty oftransporting a sand so poor in gold, as well as the quantity of fuelrequired, the continued and well-directed experiments hitherto madewould seem to have determined its impracticability. The notions we have obtained, during the last fifteen years, con-cerning the present productiveness of Northern Asia in gold, lead usalmost involuntarily back to the Issedones, Arimaspi, and the gold-guarding griffins, for whom Aristeus of Proconnesus, and, two cen-turies later, Herodotus, have obtained so lasting a reputation. I hadthe pleasure of visiting, in the southern Ural, the spot where, a fewinches under the turf, masses of brilliant gold, weighing 13, 16, andeven 24 Prussian pounds, were discovered. Still larger masses mayhave lain like pebbles, unobserved, on the surface of the ground.No wonder, therefore, if, even in remote antiquity, this gold was col-lected by hunting and pastoral tribes; that the fame of such richesshould resound to a distance, even to the Grecian colonies on theEuxine—colonies which, at a very early period, had established in-tercourse with north-eastern Asia, beyond the Caspian Sea. Neitherthe trading Greeks nor the Scythians came themselves as far as theIssedones; they had intercourse only with the Argippei. Niebuhr,in his enquiries concerning the Scythians and Getæ (enquiries by nomeans confirmed by what we have since learned concerning the di-versities of race and structure of language among the northerntribes), places the Issedones and Arimaspi to the northward ofOrenburg, that is, in the region so rich in gold, now become familiarto us, on the eastern declivity of the Ural. This opinion is supportedin the valuable work of the privy counsellor Eichwald, recentlypublished, On the Ancient Geography of the Caspian Sea.Heeren and Völchen, on the other hand, place this gold country of He-rodotus in the Altai, and I admit that the local circumstances appearrather to justify the interpretation. Herodotus describes a tradingroute, along which, by means of the Issedones and Scythians, thegold of the northern Altai, or at least the fame of it, could reach theHellespont. In order to penetrate as far as the Argippei, who arerepresented as bald-headed, with flat noses and large jaw bones, theScythians and the Greeks of the Euxine colonies were compelled to |198| employ seven interpreters of seven different languages.* Since thediscovery of such rich beds of gold sand in the mountain chain whichthe Altai sends out to the northward, in the parallel of Tonsk, theposition of the Arimaspi in a region far to the eastward of the Ural,certainly gains in probability. The fable of the gold-guarding grif-fins of Herodotus, according to the surmise of a learned and intelli-gent traveller, Adolph Erman, is connected with the fossil remainsof antediluvian Pachydermæ, so frequently met with in Siberia, whichthe imagination of the native tribes has transformed into the clawsand head of a gigantic bird. “Were we,” concludes Mr. Erman,“disposed to find in this arctic saga the prototype of the Grecian oneof the griffins, it is strictly true that the northern searchers for oredraw the gold from under the griffins; for gold under beds of earthand peat, filled with these bones, is now, as formerly, one of the com-monest phenomena.” However attractive this explanation, the cir-cumstance of the fabulous beings (the griffins) being mentioned inthe poems of Hesiod is somewhat opposed to it, as is also the fact oftheir decorating the gates of Persepolis as lion eagles, or Sphinges. I have already noticed the fact that in the Ural enormous massesof gold are found a few inches below the turf; running water, orother trifling causes, may have so far laid them bare that theytouched the very surface of the earth. The discovery of beds of sandcontaining gold beyond the Obi in Northern Asia, the increase inamount of one years’ produce of the Altaian or Kusnezkisch washgold to the weight of 130 pud, is an event in the history of the goldtrade; an event the more remarkable inasmuch as it belongs to thatpart of Asia more immediately subject to Europe, and the entire pro-duce will consequently be thrown into the European gold market.However ancient may be the mining in solid ore in Siberia, underthe indefinite denomination of “Tschudischer Tchürfe,” still theconsiderable masses of wrought gold found in the graves on firsttaking possession of that country, may be more readily accounted forby an early discovery of gold pebbles in diluvial soil near the surfaceof the earth. Müller, the excellent historian of Siberia, relates thata remarkable depreciation in the value of gold in Krasnojarsh tookplace on the first discovery of the treasures contained in the graves(Karganui). The interior of Asia, between the mountain ranges of the Himay-laya and the Vulcanic Celestial mountain, forms, like China, one great
* Herodotus, iv., 24.
|199| political and commercial community. However little we may knowof those regions since the brilliant periods of the Mongol dynasty,at the close of the thirteenth century (from the travels of MarcoPolo), still much information has recently been obtained (in thesouth through India, in the north through Siberia) by Europeansconcerning the gold-sand beds of that extensive tract. The journalsof Calcutta inform us that the rivers in the whole of western Thi-bet contain gold, which the natives obtain by amalgamation.
The old Indian mythologists make the ruler of the north (Kuwera)the god of riches also; and it is remarkable enough that the resi-dence of this deity (Alakâ) must be sought for, not on the Himay-laya itself, but on the Kailâsa, beyond the Himaylaya, in Thibet.Still further to the north-west, beyond the mountain chain of the Ku-enlan, which separates the districts of Ladak and Khotan, Heerenplaces, and, I think, with much probability, the great golden sanddeserts, visited by the Indians bordering on Kaschmir; and contain-ing “ants less than dogs, but larger than foxes.” It is on the west-ern declivity of Bolor that the most recent and intelligent explorer ofthis terra incognita (Alexander Burnes) has described the gold sand-beds of Durwaz and the upper course of the Oxus. Almost at the same moment in which the Ural opened its goldentreasures, and began to replace what the diminished produce of Bra-zils was no longer in a condition to supply, strata containing goldwere discovered in the southern part of the Alleghany, in Virginia,North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. Themost flourishing period of these American gold washings was from1830 to 1835. It is true that, in the last eight years, they have not producedmorethan 4½ millions of dollars; the appearance, however, of gold sonear to the coasts of the Atlantic is, in a geological point of view,deserving of more attention than has been given to it in Europe. Itis a circumstance possessing great historical interest also, since thequantity of gold found by the first Spanish conquistadores, amongthe natives of Florida, need no longer be considered as the result ofancient intercourse with Mexico or Hayti. Jacob, in his oft-citedwork, was only enabled to estimate the produce of the North Ame-rican gold washing at 130,000 dollars; but in a few years subse-quently it rose to 800,000, and even a million. In the county Ca-varras (North Carolina) was discovered a golden pebble weighing28℔s. English, and near it several from 4 to 10℔s. Since my re-turn from Siberia I have incessantly, but almost fruitlessly, attempt- |200| ed to procure more precise information concerning the progress ofthe gold washing in the southern states; and it is only quite recentlythat (owing to the kindness of the present bank director, Mr. AlbertGallatin, one of the most intelligent men of the present day) mywishes have been gratified. I here insert some extracts from theletter of this distinguished traveller. “The productiveness of thegold mines of the Ural, and perhaps of the entire of Northern Asia,must certainly have drawn your attention to our gold washing andmining in the southern States. I hope shortly, by the assistance ofProfessor Patterson (who is at the same time director of the mint),and Professor Renwick, of New York, both distinguished mineralo-gists, to be in a condition to answer your geological questions. Isend you, from official documents, a special report of what has beencoined at the mint, from our inland gold, since 1824.” ANNUAL DELIVERY OF GOLD AT THE MINT FROM THE MINESOF THE UNITED STATES.
Year Virginia. NorthCarolina. SouthCarolina. Georgia. Tennes-see. Alabama. Total.
Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars. Dollars.
1824 5,000 5,000
1825 17,000 17,000
1826 20,000 20,000
1827 21,000 21,000
1828 46,000 46,000
1829 2,500 134,000 3,500 140,000
1830 24,000 204,000 26,000 212,000 466,000
1831 26,000 294,000 22,000 176,000 1,000 520,000
1832 34,000 458,000 45,000 140,000 1,000 698,000
1833 104,000 475,000 66,000 216,000 7,000 868,000
1834 62,000 380,000 38,000 415,000 3,000 898,000
1835 60,000 263,000 42,400 319,000 0,100 12,200 698,000
1836 62,000 148,000 55,200 201,400 0,300 467,000
374,000 2,465,000 298,100 1,680,300 12,400 12,200 4,844,500
The profit, and with it the taste for mining speculations, haverapidly declined since 1835. In a country in which uniformprosperity is accompanied by unfettered intercourse, channels forthe more profitable employment of capital will necessarily presentthemselves; in the history of the bullion trade, however, the massesobtained from the bowels of the earth and brought into circulation, aswell as their ebb and flow in different directions, offer greater inte-rest than the temporary profit afforded by the working of the mines. The flow of the precious metals from Asia and America to our |201| smaller continent, and from it partially back again to the parentsource, follows, like fluids, the laws of equilibrium. The rich, butalmost unexplored, regions of central Asia and Africa, form smallerinsulated basins, possessing slight intercourse with the coasts, and,consequently, with general commerce. Under the influence ofwestern civilization, however, from Nertsckinsk, the Altai, andUral, and beyond the Atlantic from the Missouri, there exists a conti-nual flow in the intercourse of the precious metals; the exchangeablevalue of which, whether we consider the metals in relation to eachother, or as the standard of the price of wares, is by no means entire-ly or principally determined by the increase or diminution in metallicproduction. This exchangeable value (I here repeat it) is affected inan equal degree by the complicated arrangements and fluctuating re-lations of modern society; by an increasing and decreasing popula-tion, and its progress in civilization; by the demand (regulated bythe population) for an increased circulating capital; by the frequent-ly recurring necessity of remittances of bullion, as well as their desti-nation; by the unequal wear and tear of the two precious metals;by the amount of paper money, as part of the circulating medium; allacting upon the existing metallic medium of exchange. A rise inthe relative value of gold as compared with that of silver, may aseasily occur during a general increase in production, as a temporarydepression of the barometer, and an increased elevation of tempera-ture, with a strong north-east wind. In the meterological changesof the atmosphere, as well as in the general exchange of the pre-cious metals, many disturbing causes are contemporaneously at work.The effect of each individual cause, in raising or depressing prices, isdeterminable; not, however (in the infinite number of accumulatingdisturbances), the amount of partial compensations, the nature andamount of the aggregate influence. Any increase in the production which our imagination could callinto existence, would appear infinitely trifling compared with the ac-cumulation of thousands of years now in circulation, were we to con-sider these existing in coin or wrought up for useful purposes.Every increase, however inconsiderable, certainly produces its effectsin the long run; but as an accumulating population, with increasedacquirements, has occasion for a greater circulating capital, so, not-withstanding the influx, by too frequent repartition, a sensible defici-ency may be brought about. Before the important discoveries onthe eastern side of the Ural, which began to produce their effects inthe years 1823 and 1824 only, the exchangeable value of silver, as |202| compared with gold, in the important market of Hamburgh, was,taking the average of the years 1818 to 1822, as 1 : \( \frac{15}{75} \); while,subsequently it fell, on the average of the five years from 1830 to1835, to 1: \( \frac{15}{73} \) only. In the same interval, in order to restorethe metallic currency in England, as I have already stated, 1,294,000marks were brought into circulation. What share, therefore, hasthe diminished exportation of precious metals from the New World,had upon this alteration in the exchangeable value? It is scarcelynecessary to take into calculation the Brazilian gold washing, sinceits annual supply, during that period, scarcely amounted to 1700marks. Now if we assume that, in the twelve years immediately subse-quent to the revolution, the production of Spanish America had sunkto below one-third of what it had beeen during its last flourishing pe-riod (1800—1806), still the twelve years diminution only amounts to83,200 kils. Now the Ural, in the years 1823 to 1827, has alreadyfurnished compensation to the amount of 19,300 kils; so that the di-minution in the quantity of gold received in Europe only amounts, forthe whole of these twelve years, to 286,000 marks. I have purposelyselected an example presenting tolerably exact numerical elements.The result is, a decrease in the importation of gold, amounting tobetween one-fourth and one-fifth of the quantity coined, during thetwelve years, by the London mint. If, therefore, we consider the ex-changeable value of the precious metals, freed from the inconsidera-ble local casualties—the value of gold bars at Hamburg, namely—weshall be unable to discover, between 1816 and 1837, either the in-fluence of the Asiatic mines, or the diminished production of Spa-nish America. The maximum which the exchangeable value of gold attained in1827, has been maintained, with trifling variations, till 1832; atwhich period a gradual, but regularly progressing, depreciation isobservable. The Russian gold, from the Ural and Siberia, has par-tially contributed to this result. We must not, however, forgetthat the entire produce of Russia, whatever importance we mayattach to it in other respects, in the years 1823 to 1837, onlyamounts to about 302,000 marks—one-nineteenth less than the di-minished production of Spanish America, in the years 1816—1829.And even at the present moment, the renewed working of the goldmines in the free states of South America, has not been so generalas that of silver. Besides, the North American states, scarcely re-covered from their financial difficulties, have occasion for considera- |203| ble remittances of bullion from Europe. This causes a drain to thewestward, which, together with the other continually acting causes,may have brought about the effects which we are disposed to attri-bute to the increased produce of Asia alone. The principal ground,however, of the inconsiderable influence produced by the contribu-tions from the Ural and Northern Asia lies, as I have already re-marked, in the relative insignificance of the influx, compared withthe quantity of precious metals already existing. The exports toAsia, which, in another place and at different periods, I have hadoccasion to examine, are decidedly on the decline. In the year 1831Jacob still estimated the annual loss in balance of trade by the Capeof Good Hope at £2,000,000 sterling. As far as I can recollect,this was also the opinion of that great statesman, Huskisson, so pre-maturely taken from us. Notwithstanding the general use of cof-fee, tea, sugar, and cocoa—articles unknown in the fifteenth century—the trade in spices is still a considerable article in the passive com-mercial balance of Europe. In the states of the German Union, theconsumption of spices, according to the most recent official enquiries,has increased, during the years 1834, 1835, and 1836, from 2,426,0002,592,000To 2,876,000 Prussian dollars. In France, the consumption in the same years was only 5,476,0003,982,0004,856,000 francs. In the whole of Europe, however, with a population of at least228 millions, it is probably not less than fourteen to sixteen millionsof dollars, two-thirds of which consist of vanilla, nutmegs, pepper,and cinnamon. When we reflect how considerable must be theamount of the value of spices in the present consumption of Europe,compared with what it was at the conclusion of the fifteenth cen-tury, though constituting the most important part of the then exist-ing commerce, we shall discover another remarkable example of thepotency of the metals, when exercising their concentrated force ona narrow space (at that time, the shores of the Mediterranean andwestern Europe). The trade in spices accidentally caused the dis-covery of the new continent; it led the Portuguese round thesouthern extremities of Africa to India, as it had the Greeks |204| and Romans to Taprobane. At the time when Christopher Colum-bus sought to “reach the east through the west,” Paul Toscanelli,of Florence, writes to him, as early as the 24th of June, 1474, “Iam rejoiced to hear that you are approaching the accomplishment ofyour great and laudable desire, to reach, by a nearer route, there, where spices grow, ‘onde naccen las especerias.’” With what com-plaints do the writings of the Italians abound, what imprecationsare heaped upon the Portuguese, because they had penetrated bysea to India, and threatened to annihilate the spice trade of the Ve-netian, Pisan, and Genoese merchants! Cardinal Bembo calls it a“malum inopinatum,” and seeks for philosophical grounds of conso-lation. Petrus Martyr d’Anghiera writes to his learned friend,Pomponius Latus, “Portugalenses trans æquinoctium aliamque arc-ton, aromatum commercia prosequuntur, Alexandrinos ac Damas-cenos mercatores ad medullas extenuant.” The opinion propagatedby the Genoese, that the new route by the Cape of Good Hopewould soon be relinquished, because the spices suffered from the seaair in the long transit, found but little credence; and the long ca-lumniated Amerigo Vespucci (only three years after Gama), withhis usual acuteness, detected the right point of view here also.He observes, in a newly-discovered letter, written to Lorenzo Pietrode Medici, 4th June, 1501, from the Cape de Verde islands, onmeeting the remains of Cabral’s fleet, on its return to the Tagus,“You will soon hear great news from Portugal. The king hasnow a rich and most important commerce in his hands (grandissimotraffico e gran richezza). May Heaven lend its blessing thereto[Vespucci was at that time in the Portuguese pay]! Now willthe spices go from Portugal to Alexandria and Italy, instead of (ashitherto) from Alexandria to Portugal. Such is the way of theworld (Cosi va el mundo)!”*

* A pud is equal to thirty-six pounds weight. The kilogramme is abouttwo and a quarter pounds weight. The mark of silver is two pounds twoshillings sterling; the mark of gold, eight ounces. The piastre is four shil-lings and fourpence sterling.