Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

OUR EXCHANGE LIST.

THE CULTIVATOR. The first four numbers of the 5th volume, new series, of this periodical bas been received. The merits of this work has been long established throughout the country, and we should be pleased to see it more generally patronized in the west. We think that every farmer who reads the Cultivator will feel satisfied at the end of the year that he has got the full value of its price.

HUNT'S MERCHANTS MAGAZINE. We are indebted to the able and industrious Editor of this highly valuable periodical for the April number. It contains much interesting matter and comes fully up to the standard of the work. By the way, we beg to make one suggestion to the Editor: we have examined his rail road statistics, in some six or eight numbers, with a view of ascertaining the charges for the transportation of freight on the different roads, but have met with no tables which give this information. These are facts that would be highly interesting to the people of the west.

SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER. The April number of this highly interesting work has been received. It contains several articles of more than ordinary merit, which fully sustain the high character of the work.

THE WESTERN LANCET. The first four numbers of the seventh volume of the Western Lancet is before us, and although not exactly in our line, we are, nevertheless, under obligations 10 the publishers, and shall be pleased to continue the exchange. The preservation of health is a subject of the highest interest to every individual, and comes properly within the range of political economy. Inquiries into the causes which produce disease in different parts of the country, might be made the means of preventing much suffering and we should at all times be pleased to do any thing in our power to promote such investigations.

AMERICAN PHRENOLOGICAL JOURNAL.
The April number of this long established work has been received.

THE AMERICAN ARTIZAN. We have been in regular receipt of this valuable paper for some time, and take pleasure in recommending it to the patronage of our readers, especially to the mechanics of the west.

CLUBS Will be furnished with six copies of the WESTERN JOURNAL for fifteen dollars, for the term of one year.

THE

WESTERN JOURNAL.

Volume 1.]

JUNE, 1848.

[Number VI.

ART. 1.- ARTIFICIAL AGENTS OF EXCHANGE. HAVING noticed in the preceding numbers of the WESTERN JOURNAL the nature of the agency performed by the merchant and the carrier, we now propose to consider the nature of a different class of agents, which, although artificial, are neveztheless essential to the advancement of civilization.

Among these artificial agents, money may be regarded as the first in point of importance ; for, independently of its intrinsic utility as an agent in effecting the exchange of other commodities, it would seem to be endowed with some inherent property that exerts an influence at once potent and mysterious, over the moral nature of man. The power of money is derived from the universal assent of the civilized world, and its most important function is that exercised in facilitating the exchange of other commodities. This is the fundamental principle involved in its use, and should be constantly borne in mind by those who desire to understand its true nature.

The adoption of symbols as the representatives of useful commodities is among the most ancient of the social institutions, and the same idea seems to have occurred to every people in the earliest stages of their civilization; for, even barbarous tribes, ignorant of almost every civil art, and unacquainted with the precious metals, have, nevertheless, conceived the principle involved in the use of money, and for the want of better defined symbols, use shells and other things of no intrinsic value, as the representatives of useful commodities.

Indeed, it is difficult to conceive how the human family could have emerged from a state of barbarism without the adoption of some arbitrary and conventional representative of the value of those things which were necessary to their comfort and convenience ; for, without such a representative, the time consumed and the inconvenience incurred in effecting the exchange of commodities, would be greater than the labor of producing them; and would tend to discourage the production of all such as were not essentially necessary to the subsistence and

VOL. I, NO. VI-29

comfort of the producer. Without such an agent as money, if the producer of corn should need a coat, he must not only find an individual who had a coat to dispose of, but he must find one who desired to exchange it for corn: and if no such individual could be found, the farmer must go without a coat, or otherwise enter into a series of exchanges, for the purpose of procuring an article which the owner of the coat desired to obtain. It was to remedy the inconvenience of effecting the exchange of commodities by bartering, that the principle involved in the use of money was adopted. The proposition was simple, and easy of apprehension, and only required the selection of a proper symbol to put the principle in operation ; and the precious metals would seem to have been designed for that purpose—for owing to the peculiar manner in which they are distributed throughout the earth, they can never be produced in quantities so large as to cause a sudden depreciation in their value; while the desire to obtain them ensures the constant working of the mines, so as to prevent a decrease in quantity; and thus the labor employed in mining, is made to regulate the money price of all other labor. This is the principle involved in the use of the precious metals as symbols; and, although they appear to have been wisely selected, it does not follow that the exchange of commodities could not have been effected by other arbitrary symbols, as well as by the precious metals.

It is remarkable, that notwithstanding the principle of exchanging commodities by the use of an arbitrary representative of their value bas been so long understood and acted upon, yet the laws governing the circulation of money should be so imperfectly understood at the present day. This is owing to the fact that its use and circulation are so intimately connected with the production, exchange, and consumption of useful commodities, that it is impossible to understand it as an inde. pendent and distinct subject; nor can it be fully comprehended without embracing the entire subject of political economy. Owing to the facility of exchanging money for whatever the possessor may desire, we very naturally forget that it is an agent, and invest it with all the powers of a principal. Acting upon this error, it becomes the primary object and end of all pursuits, while the substance is sacri. ficed to obtain the shadow. Such is the case with the farmer, who, aiming to grow rich by the acquisition of money, wears out his land, and permits his houses and enclosures to fall into decay; and such is the case with him who, possessing means sufficient to ensure every reasonable comfort, yet continues to exert every faculty of both body and mind, in the pursuit of wealth. For the former will discover in the end that his labors have simply resulted in exchanging the permanent and substantial wealth which he possessed in his soil, for its equivalent in money; and that his gains consist in the privilege of purchasing, and in like manner wearing out another farm; or, haply, if he perceives his folly, he may appropriate his money, and an equal amount of labor to the purpose of restoring his exhausted farm to its original state of fertility: while the latter, will in time, perceive that he has exhausted his muscular strength, denied himself the comforts of physical repose, neglected to improve his opportunities of mental and moral improvement, and sacrificed all the pleasures which these were designed to afford for that, which to him, is worse than useless.

Although the amount of money in circulation in a given country may be regarded as the representative of all the labor and property within its limits, yet it is not, nor can be, made a permanent standard of value; for every individual being left free to exchange his labor or property for money, or not, as he may choose, the measure of its value is subject to the agreement of the parties concerned in every transaction of exchange ; and hence, it frequently occurs, that at the same time and place, money cannot be exchanged, with different individuals, for the same quantity of a given commodity. One is willing to exchange coin for money at the rate of twenty five cents per bushel, while another demands thirty cents for the same quantity; and thus, in every case of exchange, the parties agree upon the value of money according to the opinion which they respectively form in regard to their own interest or convenience; or, it may be that one or the other is compelled by necessity, to yield to an exorbitant demand; and thus, it will be perceived that “the intrinsic value of money,” a phrase which is often used by the politician, is the most vague of all unmeaning terms, especially in the sense in which it is generally used for, if it possesses an intrinsic value besides its use as a mere metalic substance, this consists in its functions as a general agent of exchange; while its specific value is the subject of agreement between the parties to each transaction.

As an agent in effecting the exchange of other commodities, it is in strict ac. cordance with the nature of money to accumulate and abound most where the greatest amount of commodities are exchanged; and therefore, it as naturally tends to the great commercial marts, as matter to the centre of gravity. As we proceed from these great marts towards the extremes of the commercial circle of which they constitute the centre, the representative value of money gradually increases, or, in other words, it becomes dearer, while lands and provisions become cheaper. This difference in the value, and quantity of money between distant points, however, would not be important was there no commercial intercourse between them; but it is clear that in the exchange of commodities between the centre and the distant points within the circle, the advantages are greatly in favor of the former-for, if the money value of lands and provisions materially differ in different countries, the commerce between them cannot be placed on grounds of equality.

The high price of lands and provisions necessarily enter into and influence the price of every other commodity, and if the people of a country where the price of lands and provisions rules high, as in Great Britain, should exchange their manufactures for the raw material of a country where the price of lands and provisions was low, as in Missouri, the former would enjoy the singular advantage of sell. ing their agricultural products at prices which would pay them a fair profit on

lands valued perhaps at two hundred dollars an acre; while the latter would pay for them in raw material, at a price which only pays a moderate profit on land valued at from five to ten dollars per acre; and thus by purchasing the manufactures of England, we are sustaining the high prices of lands and provisions in that country, and depressing them in our own.

The immense commerce of England draws to that country a larger amount of money than is found in any other; and hence money is cheaper and lands and provisions dearer there than in any other part of the world; and labor is also dearer than in any other country, except the United States. Now, it is evident that these high prices could not be sustained, unless she could sell her manufactures to the people of other countries, at prices corresponding with the prices of her lands and provisions, and purchase their raw material at prices corresponding with the price of lands and provisions where it is produced. This is the course that England has hitherto pursued; and hence she has enriched herself from all the nations of the earth. But no people have ever become rich by British commerce-nor can such an event happen so long as the products of her soil continue at former and present high prices, and she to find a market for her manufactures.

After long experience the people of this country have begun to perceive that we have gained but little by British commerce; but they appear greatly puzzled to find out the cause. Among the many causes assigned, the low price of labor in Great Britain is considered by many as the most prominent. But the average difference between the price of labor there and here, constitutes but a small item in the list of disadvantages against which we have to contend in our commerce with that country. Labor there is dependent upon capital, and wages are reduced to the lowest point that will sustain the operative in a working condition; this is necessary to enable the manufacturer to meet competition from other countries, and also for the purpose of sustaining the high prices of land and provisions; but “pauper labor," as it is sometimes called, is but as the dust in the balance, when compared to the immense amount of machinery, the large profits of real estate, and the fixed capital of the Bank of England. These constitute the elements of the great power against which we have to contend in our commercial intercourse with that country. With such advantages against us, it is our true policy to limit our commerce with her to the exchange of such commodities only as are essentially necessary to our comfort and convenience. For as long as money remains cheaper in Great Britain than in the United States, the advantages grow. ing out of an exchange of commodities, must remain in her favor.

It may be asked, if money is dearer in the United States than in Great Britain, why it does not come here for investment? This would be in conformity with one of the laws of its circulation were not this law modified and controlled by the causes just mentioned. Owing to these causes, the people of Great Britain avail themselves of all the benefits of the high price of money here, while they still keep their own precious metals at home.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »