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a country puts up the rate of interest, and puts down the price of that part of produce used in trade. It keeps skilled workmen from coming in; it induces many already in to go out; it causes, in a country like America, a far greater use of English goods than there otherwise would be. These facts being understood, it is easy [he asserts] to see what kind of men will, in the face of these facts, be for, and what kind of men will be against, a further issue of paper bills. On the side of the enemies to the bills will be the lawyers, the money-lenders, the speculators in land, and the men who, in any way, are dependent upon them. On the side of the friends to the issue of bills will be the lovers of trade, the supporters of manufactures, and the men who have the interest of the proprietors of the province truly at heart.
"The enemies to paper money cry out, that, if any more be issued, the value of the whole of it will sink." This suggests an inquiry into the nature of money in general, and bills of credit in particular. Money, he declares, “is a medium of exchange; and whatever men agree to make the medium is, to those who have it, the very things they want, because it will buy for them the very things they want. It is cloth to him who wants cloth. It is corn to him who wants
corn. Custom has made gold and silver the materials for this medium of exchange. But the measure of value for this medium is not gold and silver, but labor. Labor is as much a measure of the value of silver as of anything else. Suppose one man employed to raise corn, while another man is busy refining gold. At the end of a year the complete produce of corn and the complete produce of silver are the natural price of each other. If the one be twenty bushels and the other twenty ounces, then one ounce of silver is worth the labor of raising one bushel of corn. Money therefore, as bullion, is valuable by so much labor as it costs to produce that bullion.
"But this bullion, when coined into money, is heavy, consumes time in the counting, cannot be easily hidden. Hence it is that at Hamburgh, at Amsterdam, at London, at Venice, the centers of vast trade, men have resorted, for sake of convenience, to banks of deposit and bills of credit. Into the banks they put their gold and silver, and take out bills to the value of what they put in. Thus the money of the country is doubled, the banks loaning out the gold at interest, the people making their great payments in bills.
"As the men of Europe put in money for the security of the bills, so [says he] men in
Pennsylvania, not having money, pledge their land."
These principles stated, Franklin proceeds to consider which kind of security is the better, whether bills issued on money or bills issued on land are more likely to fall in value. His answer is, of course, bills issued on money. "Gold and silver may become so plentiful that a coin which at one time purchased the labor of a man for twenty days, will not at another time purchase that same man's labor for fifteen days. Every credit bill issued on that coin as security must therefore depreciate." And this he claims is precisely what has taken place in Europe ever since the discovery of gold in America. "But in Pennsylvania the people are rapidly increasing, land is always in demand, its value is always rising, and bills of credit issued on it as security must of necessity grow more and more valuable every day."
That Franklin was deceived by such shallow arguments, that he really meant what he said, is difficult to believe. He has come down to us as the great teacher of thrift, of frugality, of fair and honest dealing. Yet man cannot devise anything more at variance with these virtues than paper money. It promotes speculation; it encourages extravagance; every piece of it is a symbol of fraud. The value
stamped upon its face is one thing; the real value is another thing. But Franklin was now a partisan, and was soon rewarded for his partisanship. Had he meddled in theology, had he written a pamphlet on the Keithian schism, the presses of Andrew Bradford and David Harry would have teemed with replies. But he wrote on a question of political economy. Not a man among the supporters of specie money could reply, and his remarks were hailed as unanswerable. When, therefore, his friends carried the day, and thirty thousand pounds in paper money was ordered to be printed, Benjamin Franklin was made the printer. "A very profitable job," says he in the Autobiography, “and a great help to me."
Bad as were his notions of political economy, his pamphlet contained one great truth,—the truth that labor is a measure of value. Whether he discovered, or, as is not unlikely, borrowed it, he was the first to openly assert it; and his it remained till, forty-seven years later, Adam Smith adopted and reaffirmed it in "The Wealth of Nations."
THE pamphlet on paper money finished, Franklin wrote nothing for six months. By that time Keimer had fallen deeply in debt, had been dragged to jail for the ninth time, had compounded with his creditors, had been liberated, had failed again, and had sold his newspaper to Franklin & Meredith for a trifle. Ninety subscribers then took the "Instructor " each week, and thirty-nine weekly numbers had been issued. With the fortieth, which bears date October 2, 1729, a new era opened. The silly name was cut down to "The Pennsylvania Gazette." The Quaker nomenclature was dropped, "The Religious Courtship" ceased to be published. Except at long intervals, no extracts from Chambers's Dictionary appeared; and, for the first time in the history of our country, a newspaper was issued twice a week. In this Franklin was far, indeed too far, in advance of the age, and, when the bad weather came and the postrider made his trips northward