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Money

value, metals, medium, cattle, food, metal, exchange, coins and word

MONEY. The standard by which the value of commodities is measured, and the medium by which they are bought and sold. Money and credit, to which it gave birth, form the basis on which the stupendous business of banking has been built up. There is probably nothing which is of greater importance in the civilised world than money, and nothing which comes more closely in contact with mankind in every department of life. Not only have all conceivable com modities a monetary value attached to them, but it is customary to ascribe a financial reason as the prime moving cause (either directly or indirectly) in almost every action in which a man is concerned. In the primitive ages there was no money, and when one of the inhabitants of those olden times wished to obtain food which belonged to another person, possession had to be obtained by barter ; that is, some article, considered of equal value, and of which the person who owned the food was in need, had to be offered in exchange. If one man was rich in food possessions and another in skins, there would be much inconvenience in always arranging a suitable exchange, as the food owner might not be in need of skins. This difficulty led most nations at a very early date, after experience with various substitutes, to adopt metals, particularly gold and silver, as a circulating medium. In the case supposed, the owner of food was then able to exchange his goods for a certain quantity of metal, which metal he could use for the purpose of obtaining from other per sons articles which were more useful to him than skins. In the " homer says that the armour of Diomede was worth only nine oxen, and the armour of Glaucus was worth 100 oxen, which indicates that in those days oxen were regarded as a standard of value.

Cattle were of great importance in the early stages of civilisation, and in several languages the name for money is identical with that of some kind of cattle or domesticated animal. Professor Jevons points out that peeuvia, the Latin word for money, is derived from pecits, cattle ; that our word fee is nothing but the Anglo-Saxon jeoh, meaning alike money and cattle ; and that the words capital, chattel and cattle are derived from the word capitate. Nine were called capita/e because they were counted by the capon, or head.

At different periods and in various countries many articles have been used to meet the necessity, which was felt by all, of having something to act as a measure of value. In India, certain parts of Southern Asia, and in Africa, shells called cowries are still used as a currency. Money is repre sented in Tibet and parts of China by small blocks of compressed tea ; in Abyssinia by blocks of rock salt, and in some districts of Africa by dates. Sugar, tobacco, dried cod, dressed leather, furs, pieces of cloth, elephants' teeth, carved wood and many other objects have been used for the same purpose.

Carved pebbles were used by the Ethiopians. and Adam Smith relates that, even in his day (1776), there was a village in Scotland where it was not uncommon for a workman to carry nails instead of money to the baker's shop or the ale-house. Although such articles, as a circulating medium, represent a great advance from the barter state of society, most nations, as already stated, now recognise that the metals, being practically indestructible and not much subject to fluctuations in value, are the most convenient and best fitted to act as money. Silver was used by the Hebrews, and the first mention of money as a medium of exchange is found in Genesis, where Abraham pur chased the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, and weighed to Ephron " four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant." It would appear that when first the metals, whether iron, copper, gold or silver, were used they were in rude ingots or bars without any stamp or designa tion upon them, and when being paid over they had, as in the case of Abraham's famous purchase, to be weighed in scales. The inconvenience of always having to weigh the metals, and the difficulty also of knowing whether the quality of the metal was really what it was supposed to be, ultimately brought about the invention of coins. The Chinese are reported to have made coins as early as 2250 B.c. The ingots which had hitherto been so troublesome were, by the invention of coins, divided up into pieces of different values so that they could be avail able for the smallest of purchases and operate as the medium of commerce without the process of weighing, an operation which, in the case of the precious metals, was unreliable and open to misuse. The trouble of assaying the metals was done away with, for the coins at length came to bear upon their faces the Government stamp, which, as a rule, assured the holder that they were of a certain quality of metal. From this brief history of the evolution of money it is seen that each coin, to the extent of its value, is like an order payable to bearer drawn upon anyone to whom it is presented. The true nature or function of money is the right or title to demand something from others. John Stuart Mill says : " The pounds or shillings which a person receives weekly or yearly are not what constitute his income ; they are a sort of tickets or orders which he can present for payment at any shop he pleases, and which entitle him to receive a certain value of any commodity that he makes choice of." The word money is derived from the temple of Juno Moneta, which was used by the Romans as a mint. (See COINAGE, MINT.)