Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society (11 december 1886)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
This article is a report of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society published in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle on 11 december 1886.
The report is about a lecture "A Few Facts about Money" attended by Arthur Conan Doyle.
Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society
The second ordinary meeting of the above was held in the Sailor Boys' Room, at the Soldiers' Institute, on Tuesday evening, when the chair was occupied by General Cox, the President, and there was a good attendance. — A paper, entitled "A Few Facts about Money," was read by one of the Vice-Presidents, Mr. H. P. Boulnois, M.I.C.E. The lecturer first referred to the advent of civilisation, when men were first hunters, then shepherds, and ultimately farmers, and described how exchanges were made by means of barter, remarking that it was said the word pecunious was derived from the Latin pecus, or ox, from the tokens which were given in exchange representing so many oxen, but it was more probable that the word really arose from the fact that Servius Tullis, the 6th Roman King, had coins stamped with the figure of an ox in the year 550 B.C. This seemed all the more probable because the word money was derived from the Temple of Juno Monita, which served as a mint for the Romans in the year 269 B.C. Barter, however, was not only cumbersome, but difficulties of sub-division always presented themselves. In the Book of Genesis skins were mentioned as fulfilling the functions of money ; then came cattle and sheep, after which slaves figured as currency. With the advance of civilisation it was disappointing to find that the currency pointed to a stage of vanity and personal adornment, as the slave currency was followed by feathers, shells, ivory, whales' teeth, &c., and articles of food followed the vanity stage. About 1860 B.C. came the use of metal by weight, and by weight and purity it gradually became regulated. There were seven necessary qualities for the standard of currency, and these were:— 1, value, or difficulty of producing large quantities; 2, portability, or value in small bulk; 3, indestructibility, or slow wear and tear, and ease of reconversion; 4, purity, or evenness of quality; 5, divisibility, or ease with which large and small amounts could be made; 6, stability, or not being liable to violent fluctuations in value; 7, cognisabality, or ease of recognition or identification. According to Herodotus, the people of Lydia, in Asia Minor, were the first to use coined money, about 1000 B.C., but most modern numismatic antiquarians had decided that the origin of money was due to the AEgineans, about 825 B.C. The coinage of modern Europe was founded on the Roman system, England and France following close upon the heels of the Romans, whilst Russia, Germany, Denmark, &c., remained without a coinage of their own for several centuries later. Having sketched the English coinage from the Heptarchy, the lecturer gave a number of facts and curiosities in connection therewith. Having proved the universality of gold, he remarked that there could be no doubt that either silver had depreciated, or gold had risen in value, and he came to the conclusion that gold must remain the standard of value in this country, as it would be the standard of value of the whole world. After giving some interesting tables as to the annual production of gold, so that which had been available for coinage, Mr. Boulnois said the figures showed that notwithstanding the enormous increase in all trading operations, the amount of gold available has steadily diminished, and the amount available for currency had proportionately steadily decreased with the production. In other words, the use of gold for other purposes than money had steadily increased. Those facts showed that gold was actually increasing in value. In Conclusion, the lecturer said the advocates of bimetallic introduction into England were those who would benefit pecuniarily, but so far as the English or Indian people were concerned, as a race, he did not think the change would at all benefit them. — Mr. G. LONG, J.P., in moving a vote of thanks to the lecturer, said previous to the discovery of gold in Australia and California the amount of gold coinage all over the world was nothing like what it was at present. A great deal of the gold was used in the arts and manufactures, the calculation being that out of 20 millions of gold, 13 millions were used for those purposes. The question might be asked what had become of the immense quantities discovered in Australia and California? He thought the answer was to be found in the fact that many countries — Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Italy, and the United States — had adopted the gold coinage instead of a silver one. At the same time there were six or seven millions of gold added every year to the currency — which he contended was quite enough — and he did not think there was any reason to fear that they had not enough gold in the world. — Dr. CONAN DOYLE seconded the vote, and General DRAVON contrasted the English with Indian coins, and said during the time he was in India he lost £200 a year by the depreciation of the value of the rupee in sending it home, and in other ways. — The HON. SECRETARY, Colonel SEDDON, Dr. WATSON, and Mr. HOWELL having supported the vote, it was unanimously carried, and Mr. BOULNOIS having replied, the meeting closed.