Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

This method, being still simpler than any of the others, may be itself advantageously employed.

It would swell this paper to too great a length were we to notice the several corrections required in all the experiments, by which allowances are made for the varying temperature at which the observations are performed, affecting the length of the experimental pendulum itself; for the changes in the pressure of the atmosphere ; for the difference in the magnitude of the arcs described by the pendulum, by which its time of oscillation is made to differ from that of a pendulum in an infinitely small circular arc, or in a cycloid. All these depend upon principles well known and understood by those who cultivate the science of mechanical philosophy, and full examples of them all are given in the work under consideration.

All that remains in order to test fully the accuracy of Kater's method, with the improvements and checks added by Sabine, is that the original experiment should be again performed by some other person, and the results found to be identical. To render'this operation of the utmost value, it should be made by a person entirely unconnected, and so distant from Kater as to preclude any access to him in the difficulties that might arise ; the apparatus should be prepared by artists who have no knowledge of the construction, except that which may be derived from the published papers; yet there should be such a connexion by previous or subsequent communication as will render the comparison of the two experiments, if varying in result, easy and effectual to the discovery of the limit of the errors by which similar unconnected and subsequent researches may be attended.

The experiments detailed in the work before us have prepa. red the way for such a verification of the accuracy of Kater's method ; they have been performed in a country foreign and free from the influence of England, in a public building devoted to the purposes of science, and for ever accessible by the liberality of its trustees to similar investigations ;--an observer has been prepared for the purpose in the person of one of the Professors of Columbia College, by whom a part of the experiments detailed in the work before us have been performed ;nothing is wanting but instruments, and most of those necessary for the purpose are in possession of the government of the United States, and remain unemployed. It would be honourable to the nation to allow them to be applied for a few months, to this interesting and important use. Indeed, our government has done so little for the interests of science, that we fear, when other modes of attack on our national cha

racter fail, this may be resorted to; and it is to be apprehended that we shall not be able so successfully to repel it, as we have done those upon our literary and moral reputation, and our political institutions.

France and England both bold out to us honourable examples. The former country has, for nearly forty years, annually applied large sums to the investigation of subjects connected immediately with that we are now considering. These researches have been pursued with equal ardour under every varying form of government; instituted by the National Convention at the same time with a limited monarchy, they have received equal support under the anarchy of the reign of terror, the feebleness of the Directory, the despotism of Bonaparte, and the constitutional charter of Louis ; and have opened a way for the distinguished savans who have conducted them, to the first honours of the state. In England, if the reward have been less magnificent, the moneyed support has been fully equal, and the present paper is but a very small part of the labours of its author, who, in the full pay of his rank in the army, and with a government vessel at his disposal, has extended his scientific researches, from the borders of the southern hemisphere, to the eightieth degree of northern latitude.

Our government at one time manifested a disposition to enter

upon the same honourable course; one of the last acts of the administration of Mr. Jefferson, was to procure a law authorizing a scientific survey of the coast of the United States, for the purposes of illustrating the figure of the earth, ascertaining the existence of a natural standard of measure, and settling the nautical geography of our country on the only accurate basis. His intentions were understood and closely pursued during the successive administrations of Messrs. Gallatin and Dallas, in the Treasury department; instruments were procured at great expense, and of the first quality; but when the time for using them came, all recollection of their real object appears to have been lost, and all the beneficial purposes for which they were intended abandoned, at the instigation of ignorance and malevolence.

Under the administration of the present chief magistrate, we may hope for a better order of things. No small part of his high reputation is derived from his very able report on weights and measures; and if we do not subscribe implicitly to his views on that important subject, we not the less honour that zeal for science, which could find time for such a work, amid the toil of a laborious office, and the honourable and severe, although amicable struggle for the highest office of the state.

Art. XXV.-Essay on Money.--Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. V. Part II. Edinburgh. 1822.

It is usual to stigmatize, as visionary, those sciences which are not based upon the principles of mathematical demonstration. In legislation, the most obvious deductions of reason are rejected, if they do not accord with the practice of statesmen. It is true, that protection to life and property may counteract the injurious effects of a vicious economical policy. A nation may thus be enabled to make continued advances in wealth, and in the general diffusion of the comforts of life, while all the legislative enactments have an opposite tendency. In this case we see a striking illustration of the analogy between states and individuals. In the human system, the most noxious poisons are frequently overcome by the vis medicatrix of ournature.

As no small number of the errors of governments have arisen from misconceptions as to the nature of Money, a few observations on a subject which forms an important title in the science of political economy, will, we trust, not be here misplaced. At all events, the practical application of our remarks must be admitted ; for though the causes of the fluctuations in the value of the currency, and in the market price of money, may not be universally understood, the effects of them have been, in a greater or less degree, experienced by every individual.

We can scarcely suppose division of labour, and the interchange consequent thereon, to obtain to any extent, without recourse being had to some standard, by which the relative value of commodities might be ascertained. Without a medium of exchange, it would be necessary for a person who wish. ed to dispose of a superfluous commodity, for one better adapted to his wants or desires, to find an individual both inclined to purchase, and possessed of the identical article for which he had occasion. Should this be impracticable, he must go to a third person, who is willing to buy, and who offers in return, not the article sought, but one which the owner of the desired commodity will receive in exchange. These intermediate transfers may be indefinitely repeated before the ultimate object of the traffic is effected. When the number of commodities was inconsiderable, and their natural and market prices nearly coincided, a knowledge of their relative value was easily attained; but as society advances, as the number of productions is augmented, and as fluctuations from the natural price are occasioned by the temporary influence of demand and supply, it becomes impos

sible to carry on the commerce of a country without a commodity which the inhabitants will universally accept as an equivalent for their labour, and for all the commodities they have to dispose of.” Such an article is money.

Unless monopolies prevail, or temporary causes make exceptions to the general rule, commodities are to one another in value as the quantities of labour bestowed upon their production. But these relative quantities of labour are constantly changing; while the different combinations of fixed and circulating capital, and the various degrees of durability of fixed capital, cause still greater fluctuations in the comparative value of conmodities. Hence, it is impossible to find an invariable measure of value. The want of such a standard is felt in estimating the price of commodities in remote ages; but if the same article is uniformly employed as a medium of exchange, the real fluctuations, in the cost of its production, will not be sufficiently rapid to produce any serious inconvenience in the currency of a particular country. Gold and silver, which possess many of the qualities required in an article of universal circulation, have been, in general, used for the medium of exchange. We hear, indeed, of cattle serving as money in the primitive ages; and the cowries of Hindostan, and the macutes of Africa, are employed to facilitate interchanges by several extensive tribes. But the precious metals seem always to have been the money of the civilized world. Lycurgus conceived that he could devise no happier expedient to prevent the Lacedemonians from becoming a commercial people, than to interdict their use.

Gold and silver are ductile, malleable, and susceptible of being divided into small parts. The labour of mining has heretofore been sufficiently great to preserve, for a small bulk, a high exchangeable value ; (the result of the application of steam engines we are yet to learn.) The use of gold and silver, as a medium of exchange, does not alter their nature. They continue to partake of the character of other commodities, and their natural price, like that of all other productions, is determined by the labour of every description necessary to bring them to the market, where their value is estimated. Large quantities of these metals are worked up into utensils of different kinds. So far as respects these portions of them, no one can doubt their following the laws which govern the production of other commodities. From the fact, however, that gold and silver are the universal currency of the world, an undue estimate was placed upon them before the causes of national wealth were investigated. In the mercantile system, the me

tals were esteemed the only riches of a country, and all the regulations of commerce had in view a favourable balance of trade, by which it was conceived, that the import of bullion would be made to exceed the export.

Though it was readily admitted that, by artificial means, too great a proportionate quantity of other articles might be introduced into a country; yet, it was supposed, that gold and silver never could superabound. If an hundred dollars of gold purchased, in a foreign country, commodities, which, on being carried to the place from whence the gold was taken, would exchange for two hundred dollars; still, as no part of the returns was made in the precious metals, it was conceived that the nation was impoverished to the amount of one hundred dollars. That the merchant was, at the same time, enriched by the transaction, no one had the temerity to deny. Hence the attempts to distinguish between individual and national wealth. Absurd as is this doctrine, it continues to have its advocates, and most of the arguments by which the friends of the tariff attempted to tax the whole people of the United States, for the exclusive benefit of the manufacturers, were based upon erroneous ideas of the value of the metals. *.

While on this part of our subject, we cannot better illustrate our views, than by an example from the valuable statistical work of Mr. Pitkin : “ A vessel carries a cargo of flour to Spain or Portugal, say five thousand barrels. This was valued in 1811 at $9 50 cents per barrel, making the value of the car. go, at the place of exportation, $47,500. This flour would bring the shipper in Spain, say $ 15 per barrel, making the value of the cargo, at a foreign port, $ 75,000, the difference being $27,500. This difference arises from the necessary charges on the voyage, including freight, insurance, commissions, and perhaps, also, a profit, more or less, according to the state of the market. If the avails of this cargo should be brought home directly in money, the value of the imports, arising from it, would of course be $75,000, exceeding the value of the original cargo, before its exportation, $27,500.” Should this

* It is only within a few weeks, that an effort has been made to induce the world to believe that an institution, whose acts, from its connexion with the revered Jefferson, can never be regarded with indifference, bad given its sanction to a treatise on Political Economy which sets out with inculcating, that" individual wealth is often national poverty." The fallacy of the rumour of the introduction of “Raymond's Political Economy" as a text book, having been established; it is due to the Virginia University, to diffuse, as far as possible, the refutation of a statement which, if uncontradicted, could not fail to affect its reputation with the lovers of true sci

ence.

« ZurückWeiter »