1696

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The 'Great Recoinage' is not that Great

A few days ago Isaac Newton was denying that he was considering the job of running the Royal Mint, but when his friend, Charles Montagu, offers the job to him, Newton abandons his professorship, loads his worldly goods into a carriage and travels to London to begin a new life as a civil servant. Ever since William and Mary of Orange (in the Netherlands) have taken the throne of England, the financial centers of Amsterdam have become intertwined with English financial institutions. This has created the need for a stable currency. The current state of English coinage is chaotic. Coin clipping and counterfeiting is rampant. Merchants are inflating prices because they cannot depend on the face value of the coins and poor people are rioting in the streets almost daily. Gershom's Law says that bad money pushes out the good, so Isaac Newton institutes a coin recall to sweep up all the bad coins. He mints a new set of coins with a serrated edge to discourage coin clipping and sets a new ratio of precious metals in each coin to discourage speculators (called chapmen) from melting coins down to sell the base metals across the English Channel. The Great Recoinage causes a temporary shortage of coins because all clipped coins that are not turned in by April 2nd are declared invalid as currency. England has returned to 'Middle Ages' bartering as the Royal Mint struggles to produce replacement coins. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. What was really happening here? The Royal Mint was royally out of control and at least one of its branch mints was totally corrupt. When Newton took over management of the Mint, he was considered a slave-driver. That is... he actually expected the workers to do their jobs efficiently and the managers to show up for their "No Show" jobs. As the recoinage progressed, the public was naturally confused. Mint managers took advantage of the public by collecting old coins at a severe discount and then turned them in for themselves at the normal exchange rate. The scientist, Edmund Halley, took over management of one of the branch mints, but he could not bring the mint under control so it was closed after a year or so. The recoinage absolutely had to work or the English economy would have collapsed and the national debt (a new idea) would have gone into default. A few years later Isaac Newton was knighted. Historians say it was not because of his success at the Royal Mint, but in a practical sense, if Newton had failed, England would have fallen and France would have rolled over them. [4]

Finland Famine *

Estonia and Finland are hit hard by famine. Almost a third of Finland's population has died, and possibly a fifth of Estonia. The Little Ice Age is the cause of such variability in the weather that some years produce bumper crops and other years the crops cannot produce enough seed for the next planting season. [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
There was not a lot of irrigation going on in Finland at the time. The ploughs were primitive. They didn't even have wheels on them. And fertilizer for the fields was inadequate because they lacked enough farm animals to produce the manure. When a crop produces less seed than was already planted, there is not enough crop to feed people, and the next crop will be smaller than the previous one. That is the formula for famine. [7]

The Old Farm Highway becomes Connecticut Route 108 *

...there is a highway presently running out of the north end of the town, called the farm highway... -- From the Stratford Land Records, 1696. [8]

Route 108 is considered the 3rd oldest highway in Connecticut. The others are Mohegan Road (1670) which is Route 32 and the Boston Post Road (1673) which is US 1. [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Here in Texas many roads take the designation of FM, meaning that it is a Farm-to-Market road. You can't get beyond subsistence farming unless you have roads to take your crops to market where people can buy them or roads to your farm so that buyers can come to you. Otherwise all you can do is feed yourself and those in your immediate neighborhood. In the Middle Ages there were roads but they were not well maintained, and the owners of the road would charge tolls to pass through their gates. The tolls were little more than highway robbery. In the United States early in the 20th century, many rural roads had gates. These gates were needed to prevent farm animals from escaping. Nowadays a cattle guard or grid allows automobiles to pass while preventing livestock from crossing over. [11] [12]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1696, Wikipedia.

See Also

References

* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 318-319. “New coinage in England carried out by John Locke and Isaac Newton” 
  2. Stadholder - definition of stadholder (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “(Historical Terms) the chief magistrate of the former Dutch republic or of any of its provinces (from about 1580 to 1802)”
  3. White, Michael (1997). Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. ISBN 0201483017. “Even Newton's friend Charles Montagu, who was a man of vision, had no idea just how much Newton would contribute to the job, or how essential he would prove to the Chancellor's plans to reconstruct the entire financial infrastructure of the country. It was only in retrospect that Montagu was to admit that Newton was indispensable to the success of recoinage -- the cornerstone of his economic revolution.” 
  4. Board of Trade - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “In 1696, King William III appointed eight paid commissioners to promote trade in the American plantations and elsewhere. The Lords Commissioners of Trade and Foreign Plantations, appointed in 1696 and commonly known as the Lords of Trade, did not constitute a committee of the Privy Council, but were, in fact, members of a separate body. The board carried on this work but also had long periods of inactivity, devolving into chaos after 1761 and dissolved in 1782 by an act of Parliament by the Rockingham Whigs.”
  5. 1696 - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “A famine wipes out almost a third of the population of Finland and a fifth of the population of Estonia.”
  6. Jari Holopainen; Samuli Helama (April 2009). "Little Ice Age Farming in Finland: Preindustrial Agriculture on the Edge of the Grim Reaper's Scythe". Human Ecology (Springer) 37 (2): 213-225. http://www.austinlibrary.com:2138/stable/40603016. Retrieved December 17, 2015. 
  7. Plough - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “In the basic mouldboard plough the depth of the cut is adjusted by lifting against the runner in the furrow, which limited the weight of the plough to what the ploughman could easily lift. This limited the construction to a small amount of wood (although metal edges were possible). These ploughs were fairly fragile, and were not suitable for breaking up the heavier soils of northern Europe. The introduction of wheels to replace the runner allowed the weight of the plough to increase, and in turn allowed the use of a much larger mouldboard faced in metal.”
  8. Connecticut Route 108 - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “there is a highway presently running out of the north end of the town, called the farm highway, running northerly into the woods being laid out by the town as far as the brook that runs on the south end of Mischa Hill,”
  9. Connecticut Highway Timeline. kurumi.com (2014). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “1670: Mohegan Road is laid out (now Route 32) between Norwich and New London. It remained little more than an Indian trail for more than a century.”
  10. Boston Post Road - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “The colonists first used this trail to deliver the mail using post riders. The first ride to lay out the Upper Post Road started on January 1, 1673.”
  11. Cattle grid - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “It consists of a depression in the road covered by a transverse grid of bars or tubes, normally made of metal and firmly fixed to the ground on either side of the depression, such that the gaps between them are wide enough for animals' legs to fall through, but sufficiently narrow not to impede a wheeled vehicle or human foot. This provides an effective barrier to animals without impeding wheeled vehicles, as the animals are reluctant to walk on the grates.”
  12. Farm-to-market road - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 17 December 2015. “In the United States, a farm-to-market road or ranch-to-market road (sometimes farm road or ranch road for short) is a state road or county road that connects rural or agricultural areas to market towns. These are better quality roads, usually a highway, that farmers and ranchers use to transport products to market towns or distribution centers. Distribution of Farm to Market (green) and Ranch to Market (brown) Roads Specifically, in the state of Texas, the terms Farm to Market Road and Ranch to Market Road indicate roadways that are part of the state's system of secondary and connecting routes, built and maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Texas established this system in 1949 to improve access to rural areas. The system consists primarily of paved, two-lane roads, though some segments are freeways, including a segment of FM 1764 (the Emmett F. Lowry Expressway between Interstate 45 and Texas City, Texas).”

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