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Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect,
I feel his absence in the hours of
A wise, good man, contented to be poor.
THE VALUE OF MONEY.
Harry. You said, sir, that money is made of copper, silver, or gold, and that the value of the coins is known.* Is the size of the coin settled by the value of the metal?
Master. Yes. A sovereign is made of very pure gold; and if you bought uncoined gold, you would have to give about a sovereign for a sovereign's weight of that metal.
John. Does the value of gold ever alter?
Master. Slightly. Gold has been discovered of late in Australia and other places, and great quantities have been brought to England from thence; still for various reasons this has not materially altered the value of the metal.
* See Lesson 22.
William. Why has not the discovery of gold made much alteration in its value?
Master. I cannot tell you all the reasons, and many people think, that it will in time alter it very much. However, you can understand that it requires great labour to get it, and it cannot be brought from that distance for nothing, so that many people must be supported, and great expense incurred in order to procure the gold, and this keeps up the price.
Richard. Then the value of a sovereign is always nearly the same?
Master. In one sense it is, and this makes gold a very proper material to make money with. But there is another sense in which the value of money alters very considerably. Farm labourers' wages here are now 108. a-week; last year they were nine. Is the labourer better or worse off now than he was a year ago?
Frederick. Flour is now 10s. a bushel, last year it was 88. 6d. Beer is dearer now than it was then, and so is meat. Tea and sugar are about the same; candles are a penny a pound more. The labourer was much better off last year.
Master. And yet his wages were one shilling less; so that money must be of less value to him now, because it will procure for him less of what he wants. plentiful harvest makes bread cheap, and when bread is cheap, labourers can afford to work for less money, but then they must also find themselves in lodging, coals, meat, and beer, and many other things. So that before you can tell whether wages in any place are really good, you must know the price of the common necessaries of life.
Harry. I have heard that a common labourer in Melbourne gets as much as 31. a week. Those must be good wages.
Master. Stay. Melbourne is you know close by the new gold country, and that makes money so plentiful there.
Richard. What a blessing to the country those gold-fields must be! I should like to go and settle there
Master. I fear you would be much disappointed. Abundance of gold does not make people peaceable, moral, or religious; and you would find much to shock you in that gold country. But let me answer Harry's question, and see whether those high wages he named are really good. Do you know, Harry, whether the labourer can find house-room very easily at Melbourne?
Harry. I should think not, for I heard Mr. Dorkins the mason say, that if he were in Melbourne, he could make almost any sum by house-building; for houses were so scarce, that people gave a hundred a-year for cottages, which would here not let for more than ten.
Master. And do you know, that at one time, bread at Melbourne was 4s. the 4 lb. loaf, and other things in proportion? I am afraid your labourer, Harry, with 31. a-week, would not find it so easy to get his living. Besides, as labour is so scarce, the butcher and baker might not be able to get food enough for his customers at any price. So that you see, after all, 31. a-week there might not procure for a man more than 10s. here. Perhaps you might at first fancy that any country, where there was plenty of gold, must be very rich;
if gold were as common as stones, it would not be valued more than stones are; and besides, if everybody had plenty of money in their pockets, it would be of no use, unless there were in the country the things which we want to buy. If a shipwrecked sailor were cast upon a desert island, the most useless thing he could have with him would be a pocket full of gold.
Money then is of no use, except to procure necessaries and comforts for ourselves and others.
There are some people who hoard money, and will scarcely spend the smallest sum, even to buy themselves food. I suppose that at first they must begin with saving their money, in order to be quite sure that they shall never want; but since they have begun in a selfish spirit, not giving honour to God, or doing good to their fellow-creatures, God has punished them by suffering their folly to increase, so that they learn to love gold for its own sake, which when unemployed is of no more value to the possessor than the stones of the earth. Such persons are called misers-a
proper term, for miser means a miserable man.
There was once an idle fancy, that it was possible to discover some means of turning all substances into gold; and many men spent their lives in labour and poverty, vainly attempting to discover this secret. Hear what was the opinion of a Frenchman, who lived in those days, but was far wiser than most of the men of that time :—
"I tell you on the contrary that we had better have in France a plague, a war, and a famine, than six men who could make gold in such abundance as you say. For after all had been assured that it was
possible to make it, everybody would despise the cultivation of the earth, and would study to find out how to make gold, and in this way the whole land would be left fallow. They who have studied histories say that a king having found some gold mines in his kingdom, employed the chief part of his subjects in extracting and refining the said metal, which caused the lands to remain fallow, and famine to arise in his dominions. But the queen (as being prudent and moved with charity towards her subjects) caused to be made secretly pullets, pigeons, and other viands of pure gold, and when the king would dine, she caused these viands to be served, whereat he was glad, not understanding the point at which the queen was aiming but seeing that no other food was brought to him he began to lose his temper, seeing which the queen supplicated him to consider that gold was not meat, and that he would do better to employ his subjects in the cultivation of the ground than in the search for gold. If you are not convinced by so good an example, consider within yourself, and be assured that if there were, as you say, six men in France who knew how to make gold, they would make so large a quantity thereof that the least of them would wish to establish himself as a monarch, and they would wage war with each other; and after the secret had been divulged, so much gold would be made that none would be willing to give in exchange for it bread or wine.”*
*Pallissy the Potter,' vol. ii., p. 167.