Gordon Clark
Shylock: as banker

CHAPTER II.
GOLD AND SILVER AS MONEY.


Trade began in barter. If people's wants could be supplied in all instances by even exchanges of things wanted, there would be no need of money. But this being impossible in a state of civilized existence, some medium of all traffic is required — something which can atomize or aggregate, to any extent, the value of property. Gold and silver have been the most general means of accomplishing this purpose, ever since the days when Abraham bought a burial-place for Sarah, and "weighed to Ephon the silver which he had named in the audience." And as early, certainly, as the rise of the Macedonian empire, careful systems of coinage had superseded the necessity of weighing bits or bars of the "precious metals" with every transfer of merchandise. Governments had taken the matter in hand, and had stamped on the face of money the official recognition of its weight and worth.

There is no doubt that in very early times, gold and silver carried with them an approximation to what is ignorantly termed " Intrinsic Value" —that is, purchasing-power pretty nearly uniform in different countries coming under "ancient civilization." And this point was a vital one. For ancient trade was a caravan quite as much as a shop The great merchants were the universal travelers who needed always on hand a universal currency. Again, as some government was tipped over every few years, a money founded on anything short of the direct occupancy of accepted value in its units was too uncertain an article to be trusted. It was best to have something which in case of a nation's collapse, a subject could tie in his beard or strap round his body while he emigrated.

Thus naturally and inevitably gold and silver became "the world's money." But when modern commerce arose, the precious metals, without reference to ratio between them, or anything else, were found to be utterly insufficient to represent and exchange commodities. So they were supplemented with the vast systems of credit which have since grown up on gold and silver as a "basis." The Jews of Lombardy, it is said, invented the "bill of exchange" to adjust trade between nations; and for several centuries markets and fairs were held throughout Europe at which merchants met to balance accounts in the absence of a currency to help them through. Then, later, banking arose.