A Discourse of Trade

Barbon, Nicholas
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Jacob H. Hollander, ed.
First Pub. Date
Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press
Pub. Date

||* Of Trade and the Stock, or Wares of Trade.


TRADE is the Making, and Selling of one sort of Goods for another; The making is called Handy-Craft Trade, and the ma|2|ker an Artificer; The Selling is called Merchandizing, and the Seller a Merchant: The Artificer is called by several Names from the sort of Goods he makes. As a Clothier, Silk-weaver, Shoo-maker, or Hatter, &c. from Making of Cloth, Silk, Shooes, or Hats; And the Merchant is distinguished by the Names of the Countrey he deals to, and is called, Dutch, French, Spanish or Turkey Merchant.


The chief End or Business of Trade, is to make a profitable Bargain: In making of a Bargain there are these things to be considered; The Wares to be Sold, the Quantity and Quality of those Wares, the Value or Price of them, the Money or Credit, by which the Wares are bought, the Interest that relates to the time of performing the Bargain.


The Stock and Wares of all |3| Trade are the Animals, Vegitables, and Minerals of the whole Universe, whatsoever the Land or Sea produceth. These Wares may be divided into Natural and Artificial; Natural Wares are those which are sold as Nature Produceth them; As Flesh, Fish, and Fruits, &c. Artificial Wares are those which by Art are Changed into another Form than Nature gave them; As Cloth, Calicoes, and wrought Silks, &c. which are made of Wool, Flax, Cotten, and Raw Silks.


Both these Sorts of Wares are called the Staple Commoditys of those Countreys where they chiefly abound, or are made. There are Different Climates of the Heavens, some very Hot, some very Cold, others Temperate; these Different Climates produce Different Animals, Vegitables, & Minerals. The Staples of the hot Coun|4|try are Spices; the Staples of the Cold, Furrs; but the more Temperate Climates produce much the same sorts of Commoditys; but by difference of the Quality or Conveniency of place where they abound, they become the Staple of each Country, where they are either best or easier acquired or exchanged: Thus, Herrings, and other Fish are the Staples of Holland; the Dutch living amongst the Water, are most naturally inclined to Fishing: English Wool being the best in the World, is the Staple of England, for the same reason. Oyles of Italy, Fruits of Spain, Wine of France, with several other sorts of Commoditys, are the Staples of their several Countrys.


Staple Commodities may be divided into Native or Forreign; the Native Staple is what Each Country doth Naturally and best produce; Forreign Sta|5|ple, is any Forreign Commodity, which a Country acquires by the sole Trade to a Forreign Place, or sole possession of a particular Art; as Spices are the Staple of Holland; and the making of Glass and Paper, were the Staple of Venice.


From the Stock, or Wares of Trade, these Three Things are Observable:


1. The Native Staple of each Country is the Riches of the Country, and is perpetual, and never to be consumed; Beasts of the Earth, Fowls of the Air, and Fishes of the Sea, Naturally Increase: There is Every Year a New Spring and Autumn, which produceth a New Stock of Plants and Fruits. And the Minerals of the Earth are Unexhaustable; and if the Natural Stock be Infinite, the Artificial Stock that is made of the Natural, must be Infinite, as Woollen and Linnen |6| Cloth, Calicoes, and wrought Silk, which are made of Flax, Wool, Cotton, and Raw Silks.


This sheweth a Mistake of Mr. Munn, in his Discourse of Trade, who commends Parsimony, Frugality, and Sumptuary Laws, as the means to make a Nation Rich; and uses an Argument, from a Simile, supposing a Man to have 1000 l. per Annum, and 2000 l. in a Chest, and spends Yearly 1500 l. per Annum, he will in four Years time Waste his 2000 l.*7 This is true, of a Person, but not of a Nation; because his Estate is Finite, but the Stock of a Nation Infinite, and can never be consumed; For what is Infinite, can neither receive Addition by Parsimony, nor suffer Diminution, by Prodigality.


2. The Native Staple of Each Country, is the Foundation of it's Forreign Trade: And no Na |7| tion have any Forreign Commodities, but what are at first brought in by the Exchange of the Native; for at the first beginning of Forreign Trade, a Nation hath nothing else to Exchange; The Silver & Gold from Spain; the Silks from Turkey, Oyls from Italy, Wine from France, and all other Forreign Goods are brought into England, by the Exchange of the English Cloth, or some other Staple of England.


3. That Forreign Staples are uncertain Wealth: Some Countries by the Sole Trade to another Country, or by the Sole Possession of some Arts, gain a Staple of Forreign Commodities, which may be as profitable as the Native, so long as they enjoy the Sole possession of that Trade or Art. But that is uncertain; for other Nations find out the way of |8| Trading to the same place: The Artists for Advantage, Travel into other Countries, and the Arts are discover'd. Thus Portugal had the Sole Trade of India; afterwards the Venetians got a great Share of the Trade, and now the Dutch and English, have a greater share than both: The Arts of making several sorts of Silks, were chiefly confined to Genoa, & Naples; afterward Travelled into France, since into England and Holland, and are now Practised there in as great perfection as they were in Italy; So have other Arts wander'd, as the making of Looking-Glasses from Venice into England, the making of Paper from Venice into France and Holland.

Notes for this chapter

Double vertical bars, ||, denote page breaks in the original 1690 Barbon text, with page numbers when available (e.g., |2|). The bars and numbers were inserted by Hollander and are preserved in this Econlib edition.—Econlib Ed.
Ibid., chap. II ('The means to enrich the Kingdom, and to encrease our Treasure').

Essay 5, Of the Use and Benefit of Trade

End of Notes

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