Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

had become what might be called the generic symbol of money in general, while the scroll and the L referred to the two monetary units most widely known to the world — the L being from Libra, a balance; or, in this connection, a standard of values. But before Charles adopted the pillars as supporters to his arms, they had been part of the metropolitan emblem of the city of Seville, and the scroll bore the device Ne plus ultra, referring to the ancient belief that westward of that coast of Spain there was nothing but sea and space. Charles elided the particle ne, and left the motto Plus ultra, in which form it appeared in the arms of the Empire and on the pillar dollar. Originally the poundsterling symbol was made with two transverse bars. The custom of making it with only one horizontal bar, and the dollar-mark with only one upright bar, is an innovation of modern type makers.

UNIVERSITY

CALIFT

THE DOLLAR AND OTHER UNITS.

A

LL national governments assume the right to estab

lish a monetary unit, viz.: to select a certain coin, either of gold or silver, in which accounts shall be kept within their territory. Also to coin money and regulate the legal tender value of their own coins and also of foreign coins, viz.: to declare at what proportion of the monetary unit the coins shall be received in payment of debts. But the declared or legal tender value of coins does not always agree with the bullion value of the coin selected as the monetary unit. In fact there have been, until within the last half century, very few instances in which the bullion value of the national coins of any country have corresponded to the bullion value of the coin selected as a monetary unit. This discrepancy has arisen from two causes. First, because — for their own purposes — national governments in the exercise of their right to coin money and regulate the value thereof, have frequently changed the bullion value of the coins struck at their national mints, while the monetary unit being in most cases an ideal coin, or at least a coin which had disappeared from circulation in any part of the world, could not be changed except by legislation to change the unit of values; an act which, in justice to all debtors and creditors in the country, would require that there should be a concurrent and corresponding change in the amount of all debts and accounts kept in accord

ance with the former unit of values. The second cause of the general discrepancy between the bullion value of the monetary unit of any country and the bullion value of the coins minted in the same country is the difference in the relative values of gold and silver. The monetary unit being in all cases only one coin, of one metal, the changes in the relative values of gold and silver would cause continual changes in the values of the coins of the respective metals.

There is reason for believing that the phrase “double standard,” as popularly used with reference to countries where both gold and silver coins are a legal tender in any amount, is generally misunderstood. The standard in all countries must be the monetary unit established by law, and as a unit means one there cannot be “two units.” The proper phrase with reference to the monetary systems of such countries would be “double legal tender,” or legal option of payment of debts in either gold or silver coins at their declared legal (not bullion) value, proportionately to the established monetary unit.

But besides the monetary units established by different countries there are other ideal moneys or ideal quantities of pure gold or silver which have been selected, not by law, but by the custom of merchants, for the measurement of the coins of different countries in transactions of international exchange. These have, in most cases, been selected to correspond with the value of certain coins which have had at some time a wide international circulation. These are called “moneys of exchange,” and do not necessarily agree with any of the monetary units established by different countries nor with the values of coins struck at the mints of any country.

In order to have a perfect idea of the function of moneys of exchange, or ideal moneys, which are with respect to coins as measures with respect to goods, it must be borne in mind that pure gold or silver is the only universal currency,—not gold nor silver coins, for the nominal values of all these are arbitrarily fixed by legislation, which is necessarily confined within local limits. The only true denomination of coins, to make them agree with the universal currency, would be by having the ounces, pennyweights and grains of pure metal which they contain stamped on them. If a sovereign was stamped “113.001 grains of pure gold,” and a half eagle was stamped “116.100 grains of pure gold," their relative value would be patent to all people of other nations who understand the Arabic numerals, even though they might not be conversant with the domestic decimal system of the United States or the English system of sterling money. Indeed, such a nomenclature for coins seems to have been contemplated in the original divisions of British money into "pounds,” “ounces” and “pence ” or “ pennies.”

Originally the pound sterling represented a pound weight of silver, or about three times its present value, but it was being continually changed to suit the purposes of different monarchs, and through these changes in the coins the divisions of money were finally changed from pounds, ounces and pennies - or pennyweights — to pounds, shillings and pence. In 1266 an attempt was made to find a natural standard for the divisions of money, and it was enacted (3d Edw., 51) that “an English peny called a sterling, round and without clipping, shall weigh thirty-two wheat corns from the midst of the ear, and twenty pence to make an ounce, and

twelve ounces one pound, and eight pounds one gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine one London bushel,” the money standards and the measures of capacity being originally parts of one series. The original grains of wheat were soon after the above period represented by metallic grains, which are supposed to be the origin of our modern troy grains, though the troy pound was afterward changed to twenty-four grains to the ounce, and the pound itself cut into twenty shillings for the money measure, instead of twelve ounces, the “penys” or “ sterlings” becoming pence in money and pennyweights in troy weight. The origin of the farthings of sterling money was in the manner of minting the “peny,” which was stamped with a deeply impressed cross, so that it could be broken in twain, or into fourths; hence fourthings, which was afterward corrupted into farthings.

The natural standard of wheat grains — which was found variable and altogether unreliable — having been abandoned, the alterations of the money standards continued the same as before: Elizabeth ordered the ounce cut into sixty pence instead of twenty. Henry VIII debased the fineness and altered the weights of the coins so much that at times none but experts knew their real value. The “ nobles” and

rose nobles” and “angels” and “guineas” and “sovereigns” were only so many names given to disguise the changes in the value of the gold coins that were the nominal representatives of a pound of silver.

A historical table of the coinage of England shows that in the time of Edward III a pound troy weight of standard gold was coined into £14 Os. 10d. of sterling money. From that time down the value of the coinage

« AnteriorContinuar »