Georgofili World

Newsletter of the Georgofili Academy

"On the utility of a common currency in the various European countries, and the difficulties that stand in the way of its implementation" *1

On 23 March 1872, Bartolomeo Cini read to the Georgofili a memorandum on the introduction of a single currency in the European states and the difficulties that interfered with its implementation. Entrepreneur and scholar of economic and financial issues, Bartolomeo Cini (1809-1877), analyzing the situation at the time – characterized by the high cost of money, powerful speculative pressures, and the strong commitment of capital in enterprises –confirmed the principle that governments were responsible only for the task of providing security to their own populace and identified as the first important corrective action the introduction of a currency "common to all the states of Europe" ("The utility of a common currency in different countries that, between themselves, have continuous business relations and movement of people, is in itself so evident that spending time to demonstrate it would, in truth, seem to me to be pointless.").
Though taken for "a utopian dream", Cini wrote, the idea had already been voiced as far back as 1582 by Gasparo Scaruffi from Reggio (1519-1584), who envisaged a single currency in pure gold and silver that could be "compared" to all the existing currencies, so as to overcome the "great confusion" generated by the excess money in circulation at that time *2.  Scaruffi’s proposal however, was not acted upon.
Cini was aware of the difficulties that hindered the carrying out of such a plan, by individuals resistant "to changing rather long–standing habits, in the infinite number of calculations that are done at all times", to the necessity of establishing rules under which the new currency would have weight, size, and a material common to each State, namely, that it would always have "the same standard."
Another challenge was then to determine whether the new currency would be exclusively in gold, silver, or both: "Without coming to an agreement on these points, around which opinions vary greatly, it is impossible to have a single standard currency in various states. First it follows that there must be agreement on establishing the uniqueness of the type, and afterwards, the metal, standard, and weight. And in order to achieve such a result, good economic principles must act as a guide and, at the same time, old prejudices must be set aside. "
The idea of a "common currency" among European states had been launched at the 1855 and 1867 Universal Exhibitions in Paris. In the immediate aftermath of the 1855 Exhibition, the International Association for the Dissemination of the Metric System was established, whose task consisted of identifying the most suitable means to disseminate and put into operation in the European states the metric system already in use in France; this especially in view of the single currency.
When Cini presented his memorandum a few years later, all the states had by then agreed "on the metric system’s superiority... so sensibly devised and with such harmony between measurements, weights, and coins, that any other existing system" was inadequate and "imperfect" in comparison. Instead, an agreement still remained to be found and a decision to be made regarding whether the new currency would be "totally new (a gram of gold)" or already existing "(20 franc coin) ".
What is certain is that France’s defeat in the 1870-71 war changed the picture in Europe by altering existing balances – and the victorious Germany sought a leading role. Within this landscape, Cini could not refrain from recalling that Germany was about to adopt a new monetary unit ("marc") which future decisions would necessarily have to take into account.
All the more reason that the "common currency" remained an objective to be pursued and achieved as soon as possible. Cini urged governments to take immediate and decisive action, stating that "The introduction of a new currency is undoubtedly a serious matter in the economic life of a people; but once it is believed useful to do so, we must do so with resolution".

Luciana Bigliazzi, Lucia Bigliazzi  -

*1 - Bartolomeo Cini, Della utilità di una moneta comune nei diversi Stati europei, e delle difficoltà che frappongono ad attuarla. Memoria letta dal socio ordinario cav. Bartolommeo Cini, nell’Adunanza della Sezione di Economia del dì 3 marzo 1872 (“Atti dei Georgofili”, IV S., 2, 1872, p. 28-48)

* 2Gasparo Scaruffi, L’alitinonfo di m. Gasparo Scaruffi Regiano, per fare ragione, et concordanza d’oro, e d’argento; che seruirà in vniuersale; tanto per prouedere à gli infiniti abusi del tosare, et guastare monete; quanto per regolare ogni sorte di pagamenti, et ridurre anco tutto il mondo ad una sola moneta, In Reggio, per Hercoliano Bartoli, 1582