The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69
Going Back Thousands of Year
Going Back Thousands of Year.
It is allowed that the term nummus, once used by the Romans for money, came from the Greek nomos (law) in this case meaning the exact science of numbers; so that number and not "intrinsic" value is the synonym of the circulating medium of exchange—money. On the banks of the Nile are found small pebbles flat and thin like money, giving sizes from a sixpence to a crown-piece; these are believed to have been used by the kings of Egypt for money, hence the scientists have dubbed these nodules of limestone nummulites. Now, as there was an unlimited number of these ready-made pebbles, anyone might easily get a stock and oiler them in exchange for whatever he wanted, without having expended as much labor for each pebble as the commodity he proposed to purchase with it had cost the producer of that article for use. It is thus seen at once that the pebble-money must be restricted in its number, as the original form of nummus from nomos (law) implies—else like the over-issued paper money in Argentina, it would become greatly depreciated in its representative value—in other words it would take a great deal of the over-issued currency to purchase a very small quantity of goods. As the Pharaoh was the only person who was entitled to be supplied with food without having worked for it—he had the right to decree a fixed value upon each white-stone—he caused a certain number to be branded with the royal mark which none might imitate, this therefore became the pebble currency of the land of Egypt. The Pharaoh having gathered his tribute or labor-tax of food by the emission of his marked pebbles, maintained his court, his army, and his employes in public works as other Governments have done, each in its own particular way. The pebbles thus emitted became the currency of the country and enabled exchanges to be made among his subjects. If, as was likely to happen, the Pharaoh wanted further supplies he would make a new issue of marked pebbles, "watered stock," a process which would depreciate the currency; or he would make an enforced levy upon his subjects for some of the previously issued pebbles, and thus "corner" the money market, by which means the price of the food that he wanted to purchase would be rendered more favorable to the buyer. Judging from the financial tactics of later ages, if Pharaoh had surplus stores that he wanted to sell, he would emit his newly-branded pebbles freely, so that he might sell at a profit. This latter course might be State jobbery, but the kings of Egypt, like the Bank Associations, had not the page 7 terror of the ballot-box before their eyes; that may follow later on, so far as the banks are concerned. Passing along to the time of