TWO ASPECTS OF MONEY.*
MR. DEL Mart calls his book A History of Money in Ancient Countries, from the Earliest Times to the Present. The phrase is a contradiction in terms. Moreover, on turning over the title- page, we find the announcement of another work under prepara- tion for the press on the History of Money in Modern Countries. Mr. Del Mar is an American, and might be supposed to intend by " ancient " countries the Old World. But it is clear that he means ancient, as opposed to modern, States, although of some Oriental countries he brings the monetary history down to the present day. In dealing with so complicated and difficult a subject as money, precision of statement is indispensable. But • A History of Money in Ancient Countries, from the Earliest Times to the Present By A. Del Mar, C E. London : George Bell and Son. 1885.—Coins and Medals. By the Authors of " The British Museum Official Catalogues." Edited by Stanley Lane-Poole. With numerous Illustrations. Elliot Stook. 1885.
every page almost of the work before us sins by inaccuracy of expression as well as by looseness of thought. In the introduc- tory chapter, paper is mentioned as one of the " ponderous " materials of which money should be made; and the extraordinary proposition is submitted that the difficulty of supply of a material so cheap and easy of manufacture "must have had and must continue to have an important influence upon the history of money."
A little farther on we are told that gold is a " substance but poorly adapted for use as money," principally on account of the scantiness and irregularity of its supply, objections which are characterised as "fatal." It is odd that an historian of money should make such averments in the face of the history he has undertaken to investigate, and in opposition to facts patent to everybody. The monetary qualities of gold are sufficiently obvious. The attractiveness of the metal and the meagreness of its supply give it value ; the wideness of its distribution in the nearly pure form of stream-metal, rendered it, in early times, almost everywhere available ; and its durability causes its use to be economical. Nor is Mr. Del Mar more happy in the reasons he gives for the supplanting of the old system of " placers" by reef-mining enterprise. "Placers " are not really exhausted; the rivers of Africa still "roll down their golden sand," for the sources of the metal have remained undisturbed —in most cases, indeed, undiscovered. But reef-mining on a sufficiently large scale is infinitely more economical than gold- washing. The vast majority of the enormous crowds who thronged the " new rushes " of Australia some thirty years ago idled away their time in " shepherding " their claims,—that in simply squatting on them so many hours a day, doing nothing, or worse,—to prevent their being " jumped " by their neighbours ; and the reward, even of those who toiled all day with the " cradle," was of the meagrest description. In fact, the amount of gold extracted before the days of reef-mining from the richest districts in California or Australia, if its value be measured by the total labour involved in its production, cost much more than the price it actually realised, which hardly enabled the " diggers " among whom it was divided— unequally enough—to live in the rudest fashion upon the coarsest fare.
It is difficult, again, to agree with the statement that most of the gold now extant was procured by robbery of the metal from those who produced it, —the meaning being that it was the product of slave-labour. The figures are these :—From the discovery of America (1493) to 1850 the total production of gold was four and a half million kilos, a very large proportion of which must have been lost, destroyed. or used up in the arts. Some American has calculated that several hundred thousand dollars' worth are every year buried in the form of the plates that support false teeth. From 1850 to 1879 the production was five and a half million kilos. Hence the great mass of extant gold must have been extracted within the present century, and only a very small proportion of it can be the result of slave-labour. What is meant by Mr. Del Mar's assertion that the cost of producing a pound of silver "from the beginning of the world to the present time has always been far greater than that of producing a pound of gold," we fail to under- stand. No doubt, in ancient times, the cost of smelting the poorer ores of silver was greater compared with that of extracting gold than it now is,—in Japan, so recently as 1858 61, gold was only some four or five times as valuable as silver,—but there never could have been any approach to equality between the amount of labour expended in extracting silver from fairly rich and easily reducible ores and that which was really involved in the extraction of a few pennyweights of gold from tons of sand or hard quartz rock. Mr. Del Mar's history is no better than his economics. He is either lacking in the critical faculty, or he does not choose to exercise it. He treats mere traditions as authentic annals. No Chinese literature exists older than the collections of Confucius in the fifth century B.C., and China possesses none but comparatively late editions of these collections. Yet we are gravely told, on the rather antiquated authority of Du Heide, that from " Fuhi to the present time we possess a complete history of the Sovereigns of China, with the details of their reigns, their personal character," &c., though not so much as an inscription remains to bear witness to one of them. The least unsatisfactory portion of the book is that which deals with the history of Roman money. Yet here, too, the vaguest legends are accepted, such as that which attri- butes to Service Tullius the establishment of a copper coinage, not an example of which has ever been found. Mr. Grueber—in his paper on Roman coinage, one of the best contained in the other of the two works dealt with in the present article—pro- nounces the tradition to be without foundation, and shows that both the aes signaluns or bar-money, and the ass grave or libralas, were the productions of an age much later than that of the Kings. In his long, intricate, and somewhat involved, yet interesting account of the Roman monetary system, Mr. Del Mar attempts to show that the earlier " nnmerary " or token coinage was causally connected with the rising, as the later " commodity " or mixed money was with the falling fortunes, of Rome. But, in fact, while the token copper coinage endured through all Roman his- tory, the intrinsic coinage of gold and silver was contemporaneous with the best days of the Republic, and its conversion into numerary or token-money—in other words, its debasement—was the work of the Empire. The reverse of Mr Del Mar's proposi- tion would be nearer the truth ; and the prosperity of the early Republic was really due to the simplicity and sobriety of life that enabled a small and isolated society to put up with the inconvenience of a coinage at once bulky and overvalued. Mr. Del Mar's crusade against gold (and silver ?) is antiquated in these days, when the mercantile theory has been long dead and buried. Nor is it at all likely that the consummation of monetary economy in the entire replacement of gold by authorised and limited paper will be possible for another millennium. No doubt the fluctuations in the purchasing power of gold cause great social disturbance, effecting, indeed, a sort of unmerited confiscation on the one hand, and an equally un- deserved ad vantagement on the other; but money, whatever be its form, will always remain, in Mr. Del Mar's closing words, " one of the mightiest engines to which man can lend his guidance, endued with the power of so distributing the burdens, gratifications, and opportunities of life as to give each individual his due share of them, or rob each of most of the reward his labours justly entitle him to receive."
The numismatic papers edited by Mr. Lane-Poole deal with money not as a means or form of wealth, but as embodied in metallic symbols that reflect both the art and the history, the religion and the manners, of successive ages. " Of all antiquiti6s," writes Mr. Lane-Poole in his introductory chapter, " coins are
the most authoritative in record, and the widest in range. No history is so unbroken as that which they toll ; no geography so complete ; uo art so continuous in sequence nor so broad in extant ; no mythology so ample and so various." Yet numismatists are among the rarest of specialists. The reason is not far to seek. To be a respectable numismatist, one must possess a minute knowledge of history, be a master of several languages, mostly concealed in a difficult character, a good critic of art, and an observer keenly alive to small and unobtrusive differences. The union of such qualities and knowledges is rare ; and the great numismatists, such as De Saulcy and Eckhel, may be almost numbered on the fingers of one hand, while the more ordinary devotees to a study in itself intensely fascinating constitute no numerous band. Of the essays here brought together, the most attractive is, of course, the one dealing with the subject of Greek coins. The chapter on Roman coinage is, perhaps, the most instructive, and that on the coins of China and Japan the most novel in subject and treatment. In the other essays the canons of his- torical criticism are duly respected ; but in the chapter on the coins of the Far East no distinction is made between tradition and history. The ancestors of the Chinese, the "Bak" race— who, by a curious inversion of a well-known philological rule, are said to have developed into the " Pak " by the time they reached the Flowery Land—are stated to have used metal money more than fourteen centuries before the Lydians struck gold coins in Asia Minor, or Pheidon issued silver pieces in Argos. Yet the earliest known literature of China was, as we have already shown, collected by Confucius, the literary Pisintratus of the Far East in the fifth century B.C., and none but compara- tively late editions of his collections are extant. Paper was not known until the second century B.C. What written records existed before and long after Confucius were composed chiefly in short columns of characters scratched upon bamboo tablets or graven on stone columns, none of either of which are, we believe, extant. What, therefore, we can possibly know of pre- Confucian China must be limited to such guesses as a study of the characters and long poring over the ancient texts of the classical books may give rise to—guesses as little worthy of serious historical presentment as the wonderful inventions of
the early historians of India. The coins, both of China and Japan, are of little interest either from an historical or an artistic point of view. Only occasionally on some Japanese coins do we find any type of figure or ornamentation,—most of the forms of which are not mentioned in the essay before as, though reproduced in a common Japanese work on the subject,— the Kam (Chrysanthemum), or Kiri (Paulownia); the fox, or the lunar hare with pestle and mortar ; the god of wealth, Daikokn, with his wallet, mallet, and ricebags ; a cock crowing, symbolic of the myth of the Sun Goddess ; the pine-tree, stork, and hairy tortoise, emblematic of long life. On those of China no image or decoration is ever found, and no silver or gold pieces have ever been issued, save once or twice on a small scale and tentatively, within the limits of the Middle Kingdom. The book would have been more interesting had the chapter on Chinese and Japanese coins been replaced by one ou the coins of South-Eastern Asia. In Siam and Cambodia, very remarkable coinages have existed for many centuries, of which no description has ever been given, save in the little accessible pages of the Transactions of various learned Societies. Perhaps it would have been better to omit Oriental coins altogether, which none but specialists can have the least appreciation of, and to have extended the treatment of the coinages of ancient and modern Europe. The chapters dealing with these latter coinages are admirably written, especially, it seems to us, the chapters on the coins of Christian Europe, and the essay on those of England. The book is well got up, but much too sparsely illustrated. We cannot bat doubt whether the ordinary reader will derive much profit from the study of Mr. Del Mar's work ; but we have no hesitation in recommending the numismatic volume to the attention of all who care to trace the combined history of man and art which it presents, and to gain some adequate notion of the most attractive of the two aspects of money.