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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/50

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

other fine mats, and in many places ornaments and the materials for ornaments: which last, gold and silver, being relatively portable, passed into wide use. These precious metals were at first in quantities actually weighed; then in quantities of professed weight; and finally in quantities bearing the king's stamp as being the most trustworthy. No great man—political, industrial, or other—invented this system. It has everywhere resulted from men's efforts to satisfy their needs in the easiest ways. So was it with the transition from a currency of intrinsic value to one of representative value. When, instead of a direct payment in coin, there came to be used a memorandum of indebtedness to be presently discharged, which could be transferred to others—when, as in Italy, to save the weighing and testing of miscellaneous coins, there arose the practice of depositing specified quantities with a custodian and having from him negotiable receipts—when, as in England, the merchants, after having been robbed by the king of their valuables, left for security in the Tower, sought safer places, and, depositing them in the vaults of goldsmiths, received in return "goldsmiths' notes," which could pass from hand to hand; there was initiated a paper-currency. Goldsmiths developed into bankers; after central banks there arose provincial banks; promises to pay became to a great extent substitutes for actual payments; and presently grew up the supplementary system of checks, extensively serving in place of coin and notes. Finally, bank-clerks in London, instead of presenting to the respective banks the many and various claims upon them, met and exchanged these claims and settled the balance: whence presently came the clearing house. No superior man arranged all this. Each further stage was prompted by the desire to economize labor. From primitive fairs up to the daily transactions of the money market, distribution and exchange have developed without the dictation of any great man, either of Mr. Carlyle's sort or of Mr. Mallock's sort. It has been so throughout all other arrangements subserving national life, even the governmental. Though here at least it seems that the individual will and power play the largest part, yet it is otherwise. I do not merely refer to the fact that without loyalty in citizens a ruler can have no power; and that so the supremacy of a man intrinsically or conventionally great is an outcome of the average nature; but I refer to the fact that governmental evolution is essentially a result of social necessities. On tracing its earliest stages from savage life upwards, it becomes manifest that even a ministry is not the mere invention of a king. It arises everywhere from that augmentation of business which goes along with increase of territory and authority: entailing the necessity for deputing more and more work. Under its special aspect it seems to be wholly a result of the