Economic Annals of the Nineteenth Century

By William Smart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
1810. THE REPORT OF THE BULLION COMMITTEE

Ricardo.

THE year 1810 saw the publication of the great Enquiry by the Bullion Committee, which first brought Francis Horner into general notice as a member of the House of Commons.1 In the previous September, as we saw, Ricardo had written a series of letters to the Morning Chronicle, which he republished in December under the suggestive title, The High Price of Bullion a proof of the Depreciation of Bank notes. Its chief thesis is that, so long as the currency of any particular country consists exclusively of gold and silver coins, or of paper immediately convertible into such coins, its value can neither rise above, nor fall below, the value of the metallic currencies of other countries, by a greater sum than will suffice to defray the expense of importing foreign coin or bullion, if the currency be deficient; or of exporting a portion of the existing supply, if it be redundant. But when a country issues inconvertible paper notes, they cannot be exported to other countries in event of their becoming redundant at home; and whenever, under such circumstances, the exchange with foreign states is depressed below, or the price of bullion rises above, its mint price, more than the cost of sending bullion abroad, it shows conclusively that too much paper

____________________
1
Francis Horner, member for Wendover, early known as "the economist"; born 1778, son of an Edinburgh merchant; educated at High School and University there; as the sound of his own voice seemed to have worried him not a little, he spent two years in England with a sehoolmaster, "to be freed from the disadvantages of a provincial dialect," and left with a certificate that he had "acquired the English accent and pronunciation so completely as not to be distinguished from a native"; called to the Scots bar, 1800; a leading member of the brilliant group composed of Brougham, Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, Petty, Cockburn, Murray, and others, who imbibed Dugald Stewart and contributed to the Edinburgh Review; entered Parliament for St. Ives, 1806; perhaps accountable for Sydney Smith's conviction about the necessary surgical operation.

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