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Select Tracts and Documents Illustrative of English Monetary History, 1626-1730

Select Tracts and Documents Illustrative of English Monetary History, 1626-1730

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Excerpt from Select Tracts and Documents Illustrative of English Monetary History, 1626-1730: Comprising Works of Sir Robert Cotton; Henry Robinson; Sir Richard Temple and J. S.; Sir Isaac Newton; John Conduitt

Of quite modern times. More brie?y still, it is an illustration of the action of Gresham's Law, through that period of our monetary history in which it is most instructive to watch the action of that law. There are, however, two objections to the use of this term, Gresham's Law. In the first place, the principle enunciated in an adage by Sir Thomas Gresham, had been known and acted upon for centuries before Gresham's time. And, in the second place, the form of Gresham's adage is not to my mind completely satisfactory. Instead of saying that bad money drives out good, he should have said that under the medieval European currency system bad money was allowed to buy up good money. It' is not true that bad money drives out good. Such a principle would imply a conscious and deliberate choice or election, on the part of the community at large, of bad before good money. What would have been true to say is, that, given in one country an imperfect currency system, in which two elements of unequal value are concurrently circulating, and given no specific law of tender, and given no law for the withdrawal of worn or clipt specie, and given, with all this, another similarly imperfect currency system, in one or more countries near at hand, then the merchant exchanger, whether Italian or Jew, had close to his hand all the elements of an easy bargain. He could buy up the good money by means of the bad, or the unwo'rn money by means of the worn, or the more valuable money of one metal by means of the less' valuable money of the other metal. He could in a retail way sell piece by piece the coin of one country to another country. The most real and ample illustra.

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