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tions of Asia, Africa, and America, make use of shells and fruits, as small money, to this day, yet it is most probable, that as soon as metals were discovered, they were generally applied to this purpose, for their superiority in the qualities of firmness, neatness, and durability.
MRS. HARCOURT. In rude ages, the money they used was consistent with their manners, rough and unpolished, both as to the material and the form. It is supposed that when metal was first employed as an instrument of barter, that those who intended to purchase goods carried a mass of it with them from place to place, and provided themselves with instruments to cut off a sufficient quantity for their purpose; but they soon felt the necessity of having the pieces ready cut and weighed. As society advanced, fraud obliged the different governments, or rulers of the states, to affix their stamp upon these pieces of metal, to show that they were genuine. Among other substances used for money in very ancient time, was stamped leather; and, in later periods, necessity has driven civilized nations to
have recourse to substitutes of very inferior value. The Hollanders coined great quantities of pasteboard, in the year 1574. Iron bars, quenched with vinegar, served the Lacedemonians for money; and our ancestors, the ancient Britons, used plates and rings, made either of iron or tin. With regard to bank-notes, they are not money, but only promises to pay money when it shall be demanded. The value of a bank-note depends upon the probity of the merchant or banker by whom it is given; and if by experience his neighbours convince themselves that they can obtain the sum specified when really demanded, they will not scruple to take such promissory notes, in the room of as much money as they promise.
CECILIA. Were coins always of a circular form?
MR. HARCOURT. Their form, as well as the impressions upon them, vary in different countries. In Spain they have coins of an irregular figure. In some parts of the Indies they are square, and in others of a globular form. The shekel of the Jews was stamped
on one side with the golden pot that held the manna, and on the other with Aaron's rod. The Dardans stamped two cocks fighting. The Athenian coins were marked with an owl or an ox: those of Ægina with a tortoise. The Romans sometimes impressed theirs with the image of persons who had been eminent; but this compliment was never extended to the living, till after the fall of the commonwealth, when flattery induced them to stamp their coin on one side with the head of the reigning emperor: and since that time the custom has become universal among civilized nations, that of the Turks and other Mahometans excepted; who, on account of their disapprobation of images, inscribe only the name of their prince, with the year of the transmigration of Mahomet their prophet.
AUGUSTA. How long has our money borne its present form?
MR. HARCOURT. Guineas were first coined in King Charles the Second's reign, and had their name from the gold of which they were made being brought from that part of Africa called Guinea. The first coinage of shillings.
was made by Henry the Seventh, in 1503. Halfpence and farthings were formerly struck in silver, by Edward the First, in 1280. The coinage of gold was not generally adopted by the states of Europe before the year 1320, when it was introduced into England by Edward the Third.
CHARLES. I suppose the discovery of the American continent contributed greatly to increase the gold and silver coin circulated in Europe.
MR. HARCOURT. The profusion of the precious metals that flowed into Europe from the mines of South America, reduced their value, and rendered a greater quantity of them requisite to purchase the necessaries of life. Had the Europeans received no other advantage from this discovery, it might have been questioned whether it had not produced more evil than good. Agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, and, in short, industry rather than plunder, form the proper sources of national wealth: these are promoted by a due proportion of gold and silver, used as a medium in barter. Besides which, corn, houses, timber,
cattle, and all other commodities, are the real riches of a community.
HENRY. Since nothing can be purchased without money, I wonder why poor people do not learn the art of making it; especially when they are in great distress, and want every thing to make them comfortable.
MR. HARCOURT. It is a capital crime to counterfeit the coin of the realm. The privilege of coining is one of the royal prerogatives: but if an individual who possesses a mass of either gold or silver, has an inclination to convert it into money, he may take it to the Mint, near the Tower, where the British coinage of gold and silver is performed, and it will be returned to him in coin, weight for weight, without incurring any expenses. Charles, as I lately carried you to the Mint, which is the office for coining, I expect you will entertain us with a recital of the manner in which this art is performed.
CHARLES. After they have taken the laminæ, or plates of metal, out of the mould in which they are cast, they make them pass and repass between the several rollers of the