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JOHN LOCK E.
The state of the coin had for a long time very much engaged Locke's attention; the first of his treatises upon that subject was published in 1691, and the farther consideration in 1695, for the purpose of correcting the false ideas then universally prevalent.
Whenever there is considerable distress in the public affairs,—if trade is embarrassed, if the currency is disordered, if the finances are deranged,—there are always to be found men, who from ignorance or interest, are ready to recommend what they are pleased to call the easy, practical, and natural remedies, which in the end generally aggravate the evils they were supposed to cure. Under a despotic Govern
ment, if the debts are embarrassing, or the finances in disorder, a base coin is issued, and the defrauded creditor is compelled to submit in silence to the royal ordinance. Such was the common ordinary practice of the old French Government, and of most of the other states of Europe, whose coins have been successively deteriorated from their original standard.
In our own country, and in our own times, we have seen a Bank-Restriction Act imposed, to avoid a temporary difficulty, which deranged our affairs during a quarter of a century.
In 1695, one or perhaps all these causes of national distress were severely felt; the war had diminished the national resources, and the frauds practised for some time by the clipping the money, had considerably impaired its intrinsic value. Mr. Lowndes and the practical men of that day recommended the usual panacea, an alteration of the standard ; but those honest ministers Lord Somers and Sir William Trumbull, the Secretary of State, knowing from the treatise on Lowering of Interest, and Raising the Value of Money, published in 1691, that Locke had turned his attention very much to those subjects, now called him to their assistance, and were guided by his advice.
Lord Keeper Somers writes to him:
November, 95. “ You will easily see by the book which was put in my hand last night, and by the title of a Report which it bears, as well as by the advertisement at the end of it, that you were in the right when you said that the alteration of the standard was the thing aimed at. The challenge at the end, if you will allow me to say so, is in some sort directed to you. The proposition which you and I discoursed upon yesterday is endeavoured to be represented impracticable. The passing of money by weight is said to be ridiculous, at least in little payments; the sudden fall of guineas will be an utter ruin to very great numbers; there is no encouragement proposed to invite people to bring the clipped money into the Mint, so that will be melted down to be transported, which will be a certain profit at least, till by a law money can be exported. And whilst this is doing nothing will be left to carry on commerce, for no one will bring out his guineas to part with them for twenty shillings when he paid thirty shillings for them so lately. These, as I remember, were the objections made use of; and I doubt not but you will, without great difficulty, help us with some expedients for them. I believe it an easier task than to
remove what I see is so fixed, the project of alteration of the standard.
In the “ Farther Consideration on raising the value of Money,” published 1695, addressed to Sir John Somers, he endeavoured to strip the question of hard, obscure, and “ doubtful words wherewith men are often misled and mislead others.” He condemns the nefarious project of raising the denomination and altering the standard as a fraud upon all creditors, and justly considers it as CONFOUNDING THE PROPERTY OF THE SUB
THE MEANS OF
JECT, AND DISTURBING AFFAIRS TO NO PURPOSE.”
The advice of Locke was followed, and the great recoinage of 1695 restored the current money of the country to the full legal standard.
The difference between the embarrassments which affected the currency in the reign of King William, and those which have occurred in our own time, may be thus stated : the coin at the period first mentioned, had been deteriorated by the frauds of individuals and the