The Complexity of Silver

Richard Lyman Bushman

Before their marriage in 1727, minister Jonathan Edwards had written of his wife, Sarah Pierpont Edwards, that “she hardly cares for any tiling, except to meditate on him,” “die Great Being, who made and rules the world. . . . If you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it.”1 Nonetheless, Sarah held among her possessions a small silver patch box with “S Pierpont” inscribed on the bottom (illustrated here on p. 53). It was a noteworthy possession of a notable woman. She valued it so much that she took it with her to Northampton, Jonathan’s pulpit, held on to it when the parish criticized her for dressing too stylishly, and, after his dismissal from Northampton, carried it to Stockbridge, the frontier town where Edwards preached to a small congregation of white settlers and Mahican Indians. The devout, modest, discreet Sarah Pierpont Edwards would not let go of this tiny silver symbol of refinement and dignity.2

Wherein lay the power of her silver patch box over the imagination of this pious woman? Her attachment demonstrates, in a small example, the hold of silver over colonial culture in general. Silver was brandished by virtually all of the contestants in the cultural contests of the eighteenth century. Everywhere, silver was used to command assent, to assert authority, or to claim respect. Why was silver such a powerful material for establishing identity and configuring hierarchical relationships?

In attempting an answer, I have three themes in mind: silver as bullion and money (fig. 1); silver’s association with divinity, through its beauty; and silver’s high position in a world of ranked materials. My belief is that these three—money, beauty, and rank—converged to make silver uniquely effective in sustaining the authority of the eighteenth-century gentry. The three imparted a radiance to a silver spoon, making it a telling gift from a mother to her child, and invested value beyond monetary worth in a silver patch box.

The Measure of All Things

Although the least awe-inspiring of its eighteenth-century meanings, silver’s incarnation as bullion is in some ways its most fundamental. In this respect, silver was distinguished from other materials used for luxury commodities. Mahogany had no life in the colonies other than as furniture, nor silk except as clothing. Only silver led a double life, its use as money equaling its importance in the decorative arts. The two forms of silver—coin and objet d’art—were seemingly separate: one lived in the marketplace in people’s purses and pockets; the other sat still most of the time on shelves or tabletops. The life of money was busy and crass, the life of plate serene and refined. Yet in the colonial mind the two merged. The owners of silver plate knew that silver was also bullion and potentially money. In estate inventories silver was often listed and valued only by weight: the value of the metal overshadowed any supposed value imparted by its form. At the end of the seventeenth century, silver became the standard for measuring value across the British empire.

Fig 1. Five Massachusetts silver coins minted by John Hull (1624–1683) and Robert Sanderson, Sr. (1608–1693), Boston, Massachusetts, working together beginning in 1652. Silver; various dimensions. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gift of Dr. Samuel A. Green (17.292, 17.298, 17.300), gift of Henry B. Thomas (29.52), bequest of Miss Rebecca Salisbury (92.1534).

The seventeenth-century debate over silver money, culminating in the great recoinage of 1696, affected silver’s cultural functions for the next century. For a century and a half, the British empire agonized over the fluctuations in the value of silver coins. Henry VIII had debased the coinage to make it stretch as far as possible, using the gain to pay for the fortifications he was building. At the other end of the social scale, sharpers clipped coins to steal a little silver from each one, slowly reducing the coin’s value. Despite efforts by Charles I and Charles II to issue stable coinage, bad money continued to drive out good. By the end of the century, the coinage had lost on the average a full quarter of its value. At last the government saw it must call in the depreciated coins and replace them with new money milled on the edges to stop clipping.

As plans were laid for the great recoinage, officials had to decide on the silver content of the new coins, which meant specifying exactly what constituted their monetary worth. Since the old coins had lost such a large portion of then-sterling value, the authorities faced a difficult choice. To restore the silver content to the stated value on the coin’s face would entail a huge expenditure; all the metal lost through clipping would have to be replaced. Alternatively, the silver content of the coins could be maintained at the current, depreciated levels, but with milled edges that would prevent further clipping. Old coins would be exchanged for stabilized new coins with the same amount of silver. John Locke argued that the coins had to contain full weight or they would not function as coins. People would discount them from their face value, and they would be worth no more than the price of their silver content on the international market. Even the stamp of the king on a coin declaring its worth as a full shilling would not sustain its value. Only the worth of the silver on the bullion market was intractable and irresistible.3

Locke won the argument. Despite the cost of recoinage, English coins after 1696 contained the full market value of silver. Isaac Newton, warden of the mint, disagreed with Locke, but nonetheless presided over the last stages of the great recoinage completed in 1699. These two luminaries of the English Enlightenment converged at this significant moment in the history of English money to disagree over the uses of silver. Out of the encounter, silver emerged as the single measure of value in the empire. Every exchange of wheat, tobacco, fabric, every purchase of labor and land, every levy of taxes, the value of an estate, the payment of fees and salaries, all rested ultimately on the worth of silver.4

In the eighteenth century, silver in any of its forms always meant money Silver’s value on the world market overshadowed any value added by the silversmith’s art. Silver was not just money, but fixed and certain money, unaffected by the vacillations that troubled ephemeral paper currencies. In the colonies, paper money lost value continually and sometimes in terrifying falls, as between 1740 and 1750 when Massachusetts currency dropped by half against sterling. In such an economy, no material had more compelling recommendations than silver or offered better credentials to an insecure gentry.5 Wherever silver traveled, in whatever guise, it carried with it the authority of British sterling and behind that the intractable worth of bullion. That was the wordless message of the tea services, snuffboxes, and Sarah Edwards’s patch box.

Divine Beauty

As fundamental as was silver’s monetary worth to the role it played in eighteenth-century culture, crass economics alone certainly cannot sufficiently explain that role. The awe in which both the English and the colonials held silver derived from a source that they did not associate with money: the conjunction of aesthetics and divinity. Inquiries into the nature of beauty were pursued everywhere in eighteenth-century discourse. The intellectual historian Paul Kristeller has called the period the “classical century of modern aesthetics,” the rime when philosophers set down fundamental notions of beauty—most of which we still take for granted today.6 All across Western Europe, it was believed possible to define beauty through precise and objective laws, some of them pointing toward the divine.

This search for an understanding of beauty was a widely diffused effort, involving, along with the theorists, the artisans who produced house furnishings and decorative objects. Seeking to please their customers and enhance their profits, artisans turned out objects in conformity to the standards of the theorists, as if they had embarked on the same project in unison. In his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), for example, Edmund Burke, perhaps the leading eighteenth-century English aesthetician, listed the “sensible qualities” that were in his view “the real cause of Beauty.” Prominent among them was smoothness, which he found “so essential to beauty, that I do not now recollect any thing beautiful that is not smooth”—smooth leaves on trees, smooth slopes of earth, smooth streams in landscapes, smooth skins on fine women.7 By some means of cultural communication, artisans who had never heard Burke’s name produced objects as if working by his philosophical principles. Moved by their own sensibilities and the desires of their patrons, they took great pains to smooth silver forms (fig. 2) just as Burke specified.

Making silver smooth was no small task for the smiths. After the object was shaped in the raising process, the smith used planishing hammers to remove any residual marks. Because the faces of those hammers had to be perfect, they were covered with tallow when not in use to prevent deterioration. Then the silver was buffed, polished with a fine abrasive such as rottenstone and oil, and minute roughnesses flattened with jeweller’s rouge8—all to produce that silky smoothness that makes silver so sensuously appealing to the eye and touch. The effort the smiths expended suggests a widely diffused sense of the beautiful, an awareness shared by smiths, patrons, and philosophers.

The value of beauty in the eighteenth century may have gone beyond the mundane. One thinker, Jonathan Edwards, America’s leading theologian and Sarah Pierpont Edwards’s husband, articulated a connection between beauty and divinity. He used the word beauty to describe the disposition of God. Edwards propounded a deeply aesthetic theology. God, he wrote, is the “foundation and fountain of all being and all beauty” He is distinguished from all other beings “chiefly by his divine beauty.” Roland Delattre, in his Beauty and Sensibility, argues that in Edwards’s thought beauty was “the first principle of being, the inner, structural principle of being-itself” God was not only the most gloriously beautiful of all beings, “the Beauty of the world is a communication of God’s beauty.”9 We do not have to comprehend the intricacies of Edwards’s theology to be impressed with the height and reach of the word “beauty” in his discourse. Simply by association, some of the transcendence of beauty and therefore of God was transferred to everything beautiful. A beautiful teapot trailed clouds of glory as it performed its duties.

Fig. 2. Jacob Hurd (1702/03–1758), cann, Boston, Massachusetts, 1746. Silver; h. 5½ in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of the First Church in Maiden, Congregational (1991.499).

It did so in part because silver was the preferred material for communion vessels; in Catholic churches, traditionally only gold and silver were used in the Eucharist. Among Protestants, including New England Protestants, plate was also considered best suited to bear the emblems of Christ’s flesh and blood. Silver was the right material for one of the few Puritan rituals where divinity was embodied in external forms. Silver mediated between the high holiness of Christ’s atoning body and the bodies of the communicants who accepted the tokens of his death into their mouths. Gleaming on the communion table, or raised to the lips, silver was the preferred material for approaching God. If the streets of heaven were paved with gold, silver was the earthly avenue to heaven’s gates. In New England, no material was more sanctified, more dedicated, or more intimate with divinity (fig. 3). Contact with the emblems of Christ’s body in the sight of all churchgoers could only add to the numinous patina formed on silver. Such associations were an ineluctable part of silver’s power, and perhaps a partial explanation of a pious woman’s attachment to a silver patch box.

Fig. 3. Silver from the First Church, Boston. Jacob Hurd (1702/03–1758), baptismal basin, Boston, Massachusetts, 1733. Silver; h. 21316 in., diam. 13516 in. John Hull (1624–1683) and Robert Sanderson, Sr. (1609–1693), tunn, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1659. Silver; h. 3⅞ in. John Hull and Robert Sanderson, Sr., wine cup, Boston, Massachusetts, 1660–80. Silver; h. 8 in. John Edwards (1671/72–1746), flagon, Boston, Massachusetts, 1726. H. 13316 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Anonymous Gift (1999.89–92).

High and Mighty

An essay in the New-York Weekly Journal in 1835 suggests how silver figured in the cultural power structure of that century. The essayist intended to rebuke consumers for desiring unnecessary luxuries, such as silver, but in so doing he inadvertently attested to the cultural power of all such beautiful and haughty materials:

A Cottage may keep a Man as warm as a Palace; and there is no absolute Necessity of covering our Bodies with Silk. Is there no quenching of our Thirst, but in Chrystal? No cutting of our Bread, unless the Knife has an Agate Handle? We may wash as clean in an Earthen Vessel as in a Silver, and see as well by a Candle in a Pewter-socket, as in a Plate.

The purpose of the comment was to puncture the superficiality of high living. Why reach for the elegant when cottages shelter people as well as palaces, homespun covers bodies as well as silk, earthenware holds water as effectively as silver? The author writes in the tradition of eighteenth-century anti-luxury rhetoric, condemning the unnecessary expense and the sinful vanity of elegant furnishings.

For the historian reading this argument as a piece of documentary evidence, of course, the article has a meaning different from the one intended: it attests to how much consumers desired the very signs of status the author condemned. His words conjure up a world where materials, along with people, were divided into high and low along a social spectrum. Practical value alone had little or nothing to do with social value, as the essayist points out. Beginning with a comparison of palaces and cottages, the essayist suggests that high materials belonged in the residences of kings and aristocrats, while lowly objects furnished cottages. Silver and silk went with wealth, might, and eminence. Pewter and earthenware were low and weak.

In the common understanding of the world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, precise hierarchies structured relations among people and among their belongings. Seventeenth-century French courtesy manuals specified ranks for chairs according to their size and to the presence or absence of arms. Places in a room were ranked according to nearness to a bed or distance from a door. There was a right way to knock on doors. You could pound on the doors of lowly people, but only scratch lightly the doors of the mighty.

The English scoffed at French niceties but had plenty of their own. In America, George Washington’s Rules of Civility, maxims copied from an English courtesy manual when Washington was a boy, told young men which was the side of honor when walking with a superior, how far to walk behind him, and when to doff one’s hat. The general principle was “Let thy ceremonies in Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to act the same with a Clown and a Prince.”10 To be polite, a person had to identity the rank of everyone in the room and act accordingly, just as military officers today are immediately ranked by their insignia or Washington protocol demands that government rank be observed on social occasions. The ranking of materials followed naturally from the social ranks indelibly traced in society itself.

Silver’s high rank made it particularly useful in eighteenth-century colonial society. Silver proclaimed taste, refinement, and civilization. Its testament to the owner’s superior culture gave support where it was badly needed. A shaky ruling class, the colonial gentry lacked the stable designations of social rank that anchored the English aristocracy—traditional recognition based on ancient estates, titles, and established family names. In colonial locales, conversely, the gentry’s standing rested almost wholly on wealth, and wealth was notoriously precarious, especially in the North where so much capital was invested in trade. Not only could a merchant lose a fortune quickly, but people with new money were forever arriving on the scene, claiming a place among the gentry and displacing older families. In this fluid society the visible marks of cultural superiority were especially useful. Manners, a grand house, fashionable dress, and elegant furnishings supported claims to social and political authority. Silver, shining upon American sideboards and tea tables, reflected the precious glory that the American gentry craved. On the premise that a culturally superior person merited a superior position in society and government, silver became an instrument of cultural politics, a passive but powerful marker in the colonials’ ongoing struggle for power.

Silver served its social purpose well because it could play such an intimate role in its owners’ personal lives. Like most of the arts in the colonies, the decorative arts were mainly associated with persons. Nearly all of the painting was portraiture. The greatest artistic expenditure was for houses and furnishings. The fundamental connection of art and society was through the magnates who constructed mansions and lavishly furnished them to enhance their families’ standings and cultural authority.

The gentry wished to draw into themselves whatever powers their possessions held—the refinement, beauty, and rank of the objects in their houses. Among the decorative arts in their possession, few were so accessible, so close to their owners’ bodies as silver for ready appropriation. As buttons and buckles, silver touched the body like the fabric in clothing, joining the beauty of the object to the person wearing it. But silver surpassed fabric in its access, through the mouth, to the body’s interior. The majority of all silver objects produced was tableware and, by far, the most common individual items were spoons and drinking vessels.11 Spoons, forks, mugs, canns, and tankards all entered the mouth. It was a notable intrusion, for eighteenth-century people were self-conscious about mouths. The conduct books instructed readers not to leave their mouths open as they walked or to smile so widely as to show the teeth. “Do not puff up the cheeks, loll not out the tongue, rub the hands, or beard, thrust out the lips or bite them, or keep the lips too open or too close,” instructed Washington’s rules of civility.12 Washington’s mouth posture in the famous portrait was the proper one for the time: a pleasant line firmly closed. Silver, nonetheless, breached that aperture with perfect decorum and propriety.

We can only imagine the complicated symbolic exchange that went on as a silver cup entered an elitist mouth. In a sense the drinker was ingesting all the values that silver brought to their relationship, the powers of its beauty, its aura of godly service, and its high rank among the preferred materials of palaces and mansions. To be born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth became an emblem of aristocratic breeding, as if silver could infuse its powers into a privileged child at the instant of birth. On the outer hand, silver in turn benefited from the intimate association with the mighty families of colonial society. It enhanced silver’s powers to be so honored by the elite. The admission to the intimacy of the bedroom had long been a mark of favor in European society. The privilege of attending while the king dressed or undressed was reserved for the privileged. Access to the body was more than sexual or friendly; it was socially elevating. If silver secured the cultural foundations of the colonial gentry’s social authority, intimate association with the gentry in their dining rooms added to silver’s luster.

Fig. 4. John Burt (1692/93–1745/46), tankard, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1724–30. Silver; h. 71316 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Gift of Abby S. Niss, in memory of Ruth Morison Sharpies (1981.504).

Beneath the Surface

The faint aura of silver’s association with divinity entered into the room with a tea service, the fragrance of familiarity with the elite came too, and above all sounded the ring of money. All of these together made silver perhaps the surest way to assert cultural authority and superiority in colonial society, but silver led another life, a darker existence, in the colonial underground. The ties to divinity, rank, and money also made silver of value to thieves and counterfeiters. Because it had monetary value as well as social prestige, silver became a primary target for theft. Unlike portraiture and fine furniture, stolen pieces could be melted down and converted into money. A counterculture of fraud and theft tested the hierarchical structure that silver was meant to support. Criminals, as much as gentlemen, wanted to enjoy the benefits of silver, and so fraudulently appropriated silver’s powers to themselves. The colonial gentry were always in danger of being tricked by silver or losing it entirely to a clever thief. A set of underground characters preying upon silver subverted the social order the authorities worked so hard to sustain.

Counterfeiters debased coins by increasing the percentage of copper in the silver alloy, passing the new coins as the real thing. A silver wash over a largely copper coin would give a temporary bright appearance. Silversmiths, otherwise the most honored of craftsmen, were sometimes the counterfeiters. In 1720 Edward Hunt, a Philadelphia silversmith, was hanged; in 1742 the goldsmith Obadiah Mors suffered an hour in the Newport pillory, had his ear cropped, and was sold into service. Charles Hamilton, the first known silversmith in Poughkeepsie, made debased Spanish cobs, which he coated with quicksilver. After he was apprehended and imprisoned, Hamilton hanged himself with his handkerchief.13

After the middle of the eighteenth century, counterfeiting became a widespread problem in New England. The counterfeiters formed into gangs situated at various sites in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Samuel Casey, for example, worked in league with his brother—also a silversmith—and two other silversmiths. Besides the silversmiths who made the coins, a circle of confederates passed them. Nine men were implicated with Gilbert Belcher, a Great Barrington silversmith who made Spanish dollars. Some prosecutors felt the whole community conspired with the counterfeiters, presumably because many benefited from circulating debased money. When Samuel Casey was tried, the jury refused to convict and the judge had to send them back to reconsider. When finally convicted and imprisoned, he was released in the dead of night by a mob and never punished. The various gangs may also have been loosely tied to one another. One newspaper account estimated that 500 people were involved from North Carolina to New Hampshire.14

The size and nature of these counterfeiting clubs was never fully discovered, but their existence nonetheless cast a shadow over all silver money. Although the exact volume of counterfeit coins in circulation could not be determined, concern about their existence disconcerted everyone. When a coin was laid on a tavern table, no one knew for sure if it was real. Silver, the measure of all value, was constantly in question. What generally appeared to be the rock of a fundamental social hierarchy, what seemed to be insurance for a prestigious family’s sense of status, in fact could turn out at any moment to be loose sand, ready to give way.

Thieves as well as counterfeiters trafficked in silver. Judging from the newspaper ads, thieves often broke into houses and shops and made off with valuable loot. Not just professional thieves, but deserting soldiers, servants, and many among the mobile population that thronged the port towns threatened possessors of silver. In August 1750, the Boston Gazette ran an advertisement typical of such notices in the city: “Taken out of a House in Cambridge, a silver Can, which holds a full Ale pint, mark’d at the Bottom ESL and the maker’s Name Austin.”15 In April 1763, Jacob Jennings of Norwalk advertised in Boston for silver worth £100, offering a £.20 reward.16 The frequency of theft involving silver objects created an environment in which silver offered for sale aroused suspicion. Joseph Moulton of Newbury advertised a large silver spoon that someone brought into his shop. Suspecting theft, Moulton went to the Justice of the Peace who “stopped” the spoon until the purveyor could provide a better account of his source.

With thieves on the prowl for silver, the plate in the great houses rested uneasily on the shelves. Silver was precarious, forever at risk. Its owners had to guard against the predations of criminals with no scruples about invading mansions and shops to rob their stores of silver. The stolen pieces could then disappear into an underworld to reemerge as counterfeit coins or as fenced objects. Silver’s high value in respectable society was the very reason it was counterfeited and stolen; that traffic necessarily caused the gentry to look upon individual pieces with some doubt or worry. Because their own sense of social worth depended on silver, among other luxuries, the colonial elite then had to view their own position as similarly precarious.

The gentry probably thought less about the disreputable path that silver took from its origins as ore, buried in the earth, to their tabletops and tea trays, but the production of silver cast another shadow over this glorious metal. Although colonials had an imperfect knowledge of silver’s origins, they vaguely understood that silver began in mines, in which oppressive and exploitative conditions reigned. Some of that past lingered on in silver’s cultural associations. Most of the silver objects made in the American colonies began with older plate or with silver coins that were melted down and refabricated; little bullion was actually imported. But the plate and coins were at one time ingots, before that ore, and before that rocks buried in a mountain.

The larger part of eighteenth-century silver came from Mexico and Peru, where large deposits had been located in the sixteenth century. Potosi (fig. 5), for example, in what was then Peru and is now Bolivia, was a mountain of rich silver ore. The owners used forced Indian labor, as many as 13,000 men a year, conscripted from the villages in the surrounding area under the traditional mita, the villagers’ labor obligation. The mitayos, as the conscripted Indians were called, were paid sixty-five pesos for twenty-six weeks of work, while the cost of supporting themselves for that period came to three times as much. Of necessity, they had to work for another six months as “volunteer” workers, or mingas, to pay off their debts.

The miners lived in very simple conditions and performed arduous tasks. They pursued the veins of silver deep into the mountain, whence narrow shafts, averaging 650 feet in height, led to the surface. Many of the Indians were employed in carrying up the ore in woolen blankets (which they had to provide for themselves) slung over their shoulders. In places they crawled with the ore-filled bags through narrow tunnels two feet square, dragging the bags with their feet. At the end they climbed up the shafts on ladders of hide strung with wooden crosspieces. They labored up in groups of three, with a single candle (also supplied by themselves) tied to the finger or the forehead of the lead climber. At the top, sweating and exhausted, they were commonly rebuked for bringing up light loads and sent back for more. If they failed to meet their quotas, they were whipped. According to regulations meant to protect the Indians, the routine was supposed to go on from an hour and a half after sunrise to sunset, but the shifts lasted for twelve hours in much of the operation.17 In their six months as mingas, many worked in the refining process involving mercury amalgams, exposing the Indians to mercury through skin contact or inhalation. The poisoning brought on loss of teeth, shaking, paralysis, and sometimes death.18

American colonists knew that silver came from Mexico and Peru and probably understood that forced Indian labor produced it. In a 1797 Poem on the Industry of the United States of America the Connecticut Wit David Humphreys made the Potosi laborers a foil for highlighting the happiness of New England’s free farmers. The oppressed miners worked the mountain, Humphreys wrote,

Where, shut from day, in central caverns deep,

Hopeless for freedom, wretches watch and weep;

Compell’d for gold to rip the womb of earth,

And drag the precious mischief into birth.19

Happy with the well-being of Connecticut people, Humphreys said nothing about what this suffering meant for the plate on the tables of the New England gentry. The gentry’s efforts to attain or maintain authority and place left little room for the contemplation of social injustice. Silver’s origins, of course, were not unique. They were no worse than the estates built on slave labor in the Caribbean and the South. Most forms of eighteenth-century wealth had a shady past.

Fig. 5. Unknown artist, probably Portuguese, untitled view of Potosi, showing the water-powered operation for extracting silver, ca. 1585. From Atlas of Sea Charts (Peru?, ca. 1585). The Hispanic Society of America, New York.

Thus silver bravely carried on its work on behalf of the colonial gentry. Silver provided the monetary bedrock on which the economy rested. Silver gleamed upon shelves and tables, emanating beauty and refinement. Silver silently attested to taste and civilization, sustaining the gentry’s claims to social and political leadership. But these duties were carried out under a cloud of ambiguities. The most splendid, the best connected, and the most noble—next to gold—of all decorative materials was vulnerable to capture and misuse by a criminal counterculture; at least in modern eyes, its sheen is also tarnished by its origins in forced labor. Like much of genteel existence, silver was a show, a beautiful surface, a magnificent pretense concealing many flaws. Rather than playing a part in a simple story of art and beauty, eighteenth-century New England silver figured in a complex and ambiguous narrative of power.


1 “Sarah Pierrepoint,” in Jonathan Edwards: Representative Selections, ed. Clarence H. Faust and Thomas H. Johnson (New York: Hill and Wang, 1962), 56.

2 Gerald W. R. Ward and William N. Hosley, Jr., eds., The Great River: An and Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635–1820 (Hartford: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1986), 282–83.

3 Joyce Oldham Appleby, “Locke, Liberalism, and the Natural Law of Money” Past and Present 17 (1976): 43–69; Glyn Davies, History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1994), 245–46; Karen Iversen Vaughan, John Locke: Economist and Social Scientist (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

4 Vaughan, John Locke, 35.

5 John J. McCusker, Money and Exchange in Europe and America, 1600–1775: A Handbook (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978), 141.

6 Paul Oskar Kristeller, “The Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics.” in Essays on the History of Aesthetics, ed. Peter Kivy (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 1992), 3. Originally published in Journal of the History of Ideas 12, no. 4 (October 1951).

7 Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, ed. Adam Phillips (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 102–4.

8 Henry J. Kauffman, The Colonial Silversmith: His Techniques and His Products (Camden, N.J.: Thomas Nelson, 1969), 42; Gerald Taylor, Silver (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1956), 15.

9 Quotations from Jonathan Edwards are found in Sang Hyun Lee, The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 83, 179, 260; Roland DeLattre, Beauty and Sensibility in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards: An Essay in Aesthetics and Theological Ethics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968).

10 Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 38–39; Charles Moore, ed., George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation (Boston and New York, 1926), 7, 9, 13, 17, 21.

11 Kauffman, Colonial Silversmith, 50; Hermann Frederick Clarke, John Coney, Silversmith, 1655–1722 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1932).

12 Washington’s Rules of Civility, rule 16.

13 Kenneth Scott, Counterfeiting in Colonial America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 210, 212.

14 Scott, Counterfeiting in Colonial America, 4, 211, 218, 222, 230, 232, 233, 235.

15 Boston Gazette, August 14, 1750, in George Francis Dow, comp., The Arts and Crafts in New England, 1704–1775: Gleanings from Boston Newspapers (Topsfield, Mass.: Wayside Press, 1927), 41.

16 Boston Gazette, April 18, 1763, in Dow, Arts and Crafts in New England, 48.

17 Peter Bakewell, Miners of the Red Mountain: Indian Labor in Potosi, 1545–1650 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 23, 105, 142–44, 150–57, 162.

18 Bakewell, Miners of the Red Mountain, 21, 150–51.

19 David Humphreys, The Miscellaneous Works (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1968), 98. Haifa century later, Emily Dickinson, in a poem on dangerous speech, said “Talk with prudence to a beggar of ‘Potosi’ and the mines!” Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Conrad Aiken (New York, 1924), 34.