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 the Use and Benefit of Trade.


THe Use of Trade is to make, and provide things Necessary: Or useful for the Support, Defence, Ease, Pleasure, and Pomp of Life: Thus the Brewers, Bakers, Butchers, Poulterers, and Cooks, with the Apothecaries, Surgeons, and their Dependencies provide Food, and Medicine for the support of Life: The Cutlers, Gun-smiths, Powder-makers, with their Company of Traders, make things for Defence; The Shoo-makers Sadlers, Couch, and Chair-makers, |35|* with abundance more for the Ease of Life: The Perfumers, Fidlers, Painters, and Booksellers, and all those Trades that make things to gratifie the Sense, or delight the Mind, promote Pleasure: But those Trades that are imploy'd to express the Pomp of Life, are Infinite; for, besides those that adorn Mans Body, as the Glover, Hosier, Hatter, Semstriss, Taylor, and many more, with those that make the Materials to Deck it; as Clothier, Silk-Weaver, Lace-Maker, Ribbon-Weaver, with their Assistance of Drapers, Mercers, and Milliners, and a Thousand more: Those Trades that make the Equipage for Servants, Trappings for Horses; and those that Build, Furnish, and Adorn Houses, are innumerable.


Thus Busie Man is imployed, and it is for his own Benefit; For by Trade, the Natural Stock of |36| the Country is improved, the Wool and Flax, are made into Cloth; the Skins, into Leather; and the Wood, Lead, Iron and Tin, wrought into Thousand useful Things: The Over-plus of these Wares not useful, are transported by the Merchants, and Exchanged for the Wines, Oyls, Spices, and every Thing that is good of Forreign Countries: The Trader hath One Share for his Pains, and the Land-Lord the Other for his Rent: So, that by Trade, the Inhabitants in general, are not only well Fed, Clothed and Lodged; but the Richer sort are Furnished with all things to promote the Ease, Pleasure, & Pomp of Life: Whereas, in the same Country, where there's no Trade, the Land-Lords would have but Coarse Diet, Coarser Clothes, and worse Lodgings; and nothing for the Rent of their Lands, but the |37| Homage and Attendance of their Poor Bare-footed Tenants, for they have nothing else to give.


Trade Raiseth the Rent of the Land, for by the Use of several sorts of Improvements, the Land Yieldeth a greater Natural Stock; by which, the Land-lord's Share is the greater: And it is the same thing, whether his Share be paid in Mony, or Goods; for the Mony must be laid out to Buy such Good's: Mony is an Immaginary Value made by a Law, for the Conveniency of Exchange: It is the Natural Stock that is the Real Value, and Rent of the Land.


Another Benefit of Trade, is, That, it doth not only bring Plenty, but hath occasioned Peace: For the Northern Nations, as they increased, were forced from the Necessities of their Climates, to Remove; and used to |38| Destroy, and Conquer the Inhabitants of the Warmer Climates to make Room for themselves; thence was a Proverb, Omne Malum ab Aquilone: But those Northern People being settled in Trade, the Land by their Industry, is made more Fertile; and by the Exchange of the Nations Stock, for Wines and Spices, of Hotter Climates, those Countries become most Habitable; and the Inhabitants having Warmer Food, Clothes, and Lodgings, are better able to endure the Extreamitys of their Cold Seasons: This seems to be the Reason, That for these Seven or Eight Hundred Years last past, there has been no such Invasions from the Northern part of the World, as used to destroy the Inhabitants of the Warmer Countries: Besides, Trade Allows a better Price for Labourers, than is paid for Fighting: So it is become |39| more the Interest of Mankind to live at home in Peace, than to seek their fortunes abroad by Wars.


These are the Benefits of Trade, as they Relate to Mankind; those that Relate to Government, are many.


Trade Increaseth the Revenue of the Government, by providing an Imploy for the People: For every Man that Works, pay by those things which he Eats and Wears, somthing to the Government. Thus the Excise and Custom's are Raised, and the more every Man Earns, the more he Consumes, and the King's Revenue is the more Increased.


This shews the way of Determining those Controversies, about which sort of Goods are most beneficial to the Government, by their Making, or Importing: The sole difference is from the Number of hands imploy'd in making them; Hence the Importation of Raw |40| Silk, is more Profitable to the Government than Gold, or Silver; Because there are more Hands imployd in the Throwing, and Weaving of the First; than there can be in working the Latter.


Another Benefit of Trade is, It is Useful for the Defence of the Government; It Provides the Magazines of Warr. The Guns, Powder, and Bullets, are all made of Minerals, and are wrought by Traders; Besides, those Minerals are not to be had in all Countries; The great Stock of Saltpeter is brought from the East Indies, and therefore must be Imported by the Merchant, for the Exchange of the Natives Stock.


The last Benefit is, That Trade may be Assistant to the Inlarging of Empire; and if an Universal Empire, or Dominion of very Large Extent, can again be rais|41|ed in the World, It seems more probable to be done by the Help of Trade; By the Increase of Ships at Sea, than by Arms at Land: This is too large a Subject to be here Treated of; but the French King's seeming Attempt to Raise Empire in Europe, being that Common Theam of Mens Discourse, has caused some short Reflections, which will appear by Comparing the Difficulty of the one, with the Probability of the other.


The Difficulties of Raising a Dominion of very Large Extent; especially in Europe, are Many.


First, Europe is grown more Populous than formerly, and there are more Fortified Towns and Cities, than were in the time of the Roman Empire, which was the last extended Dominion; and therefore, not easily Subjected to the Power of any one Prince.|42|


Whether Europe be grown more Populous, Solely by the Natural Increase of Mankind; There being more Born than Dye, which first Peopled the World?


Or, Whether, since the Inhabitants of Europe being Addicted to Trade, the ground is made more Fertile, and yields greater Plenty of Food; which hath prevented famine, that formerly destroy'd great Numbers of Mankind: So that no great Famines, has been taken Notice of by Historians, in these Last Three Hundred Years?


Whether by Dreining Great Bogs, Lakes, and Fens, and Cutting down vast Woods, to make Room for the Increase of Mankind, the Air is Grown more Healthy; So that Plagues, and other Epidemical Diseases, are not so destructive as formerly? none so violent, as Procopius*8 and Wallsingham*9 Report, which de|43|stroyed such Vast Numbers in Italy, that there were not left Ten in a Thousand; and in other Parts of Europe, not enough alive to Bury the Dead. Whereas, the Plague in (1665) the Greatest since, did not take away the Hundredth Person in England, Holland, and other Countries, where it Raged?


Whether, since the Invention of Guns and Gun-Powder, so many Men are not slain in the Wars as formerly? Xerxes lost 260000 in one Battle against the Grecians; ALEXANDER, destroyed 110000 of Darius's Army; Marius, slew 120000 of the Cimbri; and in great Battles, seldome less than 100000 fell: But now 20000 Men are accounted very great Slaughter.


Whether, since the Northern People have fallen on Trade, such |44| vast Numbers, are not destroyed by Invasions?


Whether, by all those Ways, or by which of them most, Europe is grown Populous, is not Material to this Discourse: It is sufficient to shew, That the Matter of Fact is so, which does appear by comparing the Antient Histories of Countries with the Modern?


In the Antient Descriptions, the Countries are full of Vast Woods, wild Beasts; the Inhabitants barbarous, and as wild, without Arts, and the Governments are like Colonies, or Herds of People: But in the Modern, the Woods are cut down, and the Lyons, Bears, and wild Beasts destroyed; no Flesh-Eaters are left to inhabit with Man, but those Dogs and Cats that he tames for his Use: Corn grows where the Woods did, and with the Timber |45| are built Cities, Towns and Villages; the People are Cloathed, and have all Arts among them; and those little Colonies and Families, are increased into Great States and Kingdoms; and the most undeniable Proof of the Increase of Mankind in England, is the Doom-Day-Book, which was a Survey taken of all the Inhabitants of England, in the Reign of William the Conquerour; by which it appears, that the People of England are increased more than double since that time: But since the Mosaical Hypothesis of the Increase of the World, is generally believed amongst the Christians. And the late Lord Chief Justice Hales, in his Book of the Origination of Mankind,*10 hath endeavoured to satisfie all the rest of the World. It would be misspending of Time, to use any other Topick for the further Proof |46| thereof, than what naturally follows in this Discourse, which is from the Different Success of Arms, in the Latter and Former Ages.


In the Infancy of the World, Governments began with little Families and Colonies of Men; so that, when ever any Government arrived to greater Heighth than the rest, either by the great Wisdom or Courage of the Governor, they afterwards grew a pace: It was no Difficulty for Ninus, that was the oldest Government, and consequently, the most Populous, to begin the Assyrian Empire; nor for his Successors to continue and inlarge it: Such Vast Armies of Cyrus, Darius, Hystospis and Xerxes, the least of their Forces amounting to above 500000, could not be Resisted, when the World was but thin Peopled.|47|


These great Armies might at first sight, seem to infer, That the World was more Populous than now; because the Armies of the greatest Princes, seldom now exceed the Number of Fifty, or Sixty Thousand Men; But the Reason of those great Numbers, was, They were not so well Skilled in Military Arts, and shew that the World was in the Infancy of its Knowledge, rather than Populous; for all that were able to bear Arms, went to the Wars: And if that were now the Custom, there might be an Army in England of above Three Million, allowing the Inhabitants to be Seven Millions; and by the same Proportion, the King of France's Country, (being four Times bigger) might raise Twelve Millions; such a Number was never heard of in this World.|48|


The next Difficulty against the inlarging of Empire by Arms, is, That since Printing, and the Use of the Needle hath been discovered, Navigation is better known, and thence is a Greater Commerce amongst Men, the Countries and Languages are more understood, Knowledge more dispersed, and the Arts of War in all Places known; so that, Men fight more upon equal Terms than formerly; and like two Skilful Fencers, fight a long Time, before either gets Advantage.


The Assyrians & Persians Conquered more by the Number of Souldiers, than Discipline; the Grecians and Romans, more by Discipline than Number; as the World grew older, it grew wiser: Learning first flourished among the Grecians, afterwards among the Romans; and as the Latter succeeded in Learning, so they |49| did in EMPIRE. But now both Parties are Equally Disciplin'd and Arm'd; and the Successes of War are not so great; Victory is seldom gained without some Considerable Loss to the Conquerour.


Another Difficulty to the inlarging of Dominion by Arms, is, That the Goths Overcoming the greatest Part of Europe, did by their Form of Government, so settle Liberty, and Property of Land, that it is difficult for any PRINCE to Change that Form.


Whether the Goths were Part of the Ten Tribes, as some are of Opinion, and to Countenance their Conjectures, have Compared the Languages of the Inhabitants, Wales, Finland and Orchadis, and other Northern Parts (little frequented by Strangers, which might alter their Language) and |50| find them to agree with the Hebrew in many Words and Sound, all their Speech being Guttural. This is certain, their Form of Government seems framed after the Examples of Moses's Government in the Land of Canaan, by dividing the Legislative Power, according to the Property of Land, according to that Antient Maxim, That Dominion is founded upon Property of Land. There Monarchy seems to be made by an easie Division of Land into Thirds, by a Conquering Army, setting down in Peace; the General being King, has one Third; the Colonels being the Lords, another Third; and the Captains, and other Inferiour Officers being Gentlemen, another; the Common Souldiers are the Farmers, and the Conquered are the Villains: The Legislative Power is divided amongst them, according to their |51| Share in the Land; it being necessary that those that have Property of Land, should have Power to make Laws to Preserve it.


There seems to be but two settled Forms of Government; The Turkish, and Gothick, or English Monarchy: They are both founded upon Property of Land; in the First, the Property and Legislative Power is solely in the Prince; In the Latter, they are in both the Prince and People: The one is best fitted to raise Dominion by Armies; for the Prince must be Absolute to give Command, according to the Various Fortunes of Warr: The other is Best for Trade; for men are most industrious, where they are most free, and secure to injoy the Effects of their Labours.


All other Sorts of Government, |52| either Aristocracy, or Democracy, where the Supream Magistrate is Elective, are Imperfect, Tumultuous, and Unsettled: For Man is Naturally Ambitious; he inherits the same Ruleing Spirit that God gave to Adam, to Govern the Creation with: And the oftner that the Throne is Empty, the oftner will Contentions and Struggles Happen to get into it: Where deter digniori is the Rule, Warr always Ensues for the Golden Prize. Such Governments will never be without such Men as Marius and Scilla, to disturb them; nor without such a Man as Caesar to Usurp them; notwithstanding all the Contrivance for their Defence by those Polititians who seems fond of such Formes of Government.


The Gothick Government being a well fixed Form, and the People so free under it, is great hinde|53|drance to the Enlarging of Dominion; for a People under a good Government do more Vigorously Defend it: A free People have more to lose than Slaves, and their Success is better Rewarded than by any Mercenary Pay, and therefore, make a better Resistance: It was the Freedom of the Grecians and Romans that raised their Courage, and had an equal Share in raising their Empires, with their Millitary Discipline: The free City of Tyre put Alexander to more Trouble to Conquer, than all the Citys of Asia.


The People of Asia, living under a Dispotick Power, made little Resistance; Alexander subdued Libia, Phoenicia, Pamphilia, without much Opposition in his Journey to meet Darius; Egypt came under Subjection without Fighting, and so did many Countries, |54| being willing to Change the Persian Yoak: Besides, he Fought but two Battles for the whole Persian Empire; and the Resistance of those slavish People was so weak, that he did not lose 500 Grecians in either of the Battles, tho' Darius Number far exceeded his; the one being above 260000, and the other not Forty; And there was as great Disproportion in the Slaughter; for at the Battle in Cilicia he slew 110000, and that at Arbela 40000; whereas, the Spartan, a Free People, about the same time, fought with Antipater his Vice-Roy of Macedon; and in a Fight, where neither Army exceeded 60000, slew 1012 of the Macedonians, which was more than Alexander lost in both his Battles: So great is the Difference of fighting against a Free, and a Slavish Effeminate People.


For the same Reasons, That the |55| World is grown more Populous, That the Arts of War are more known. That the People of Europe live under a Free Government. It is as difficult to keep a Country in Subjection, as to Conquer it. The People are too Numerous to be kept in Obedience: To destroy the greatest Part, were too Bloody, and Inhuman; To Burn the Towns, and Villages, and so force the People to remove, Is to lose the greatest share in Conquest; for the People are the Riches and the Strength of the Country, And it is not much more Advantage to a Prince, to have a Title to Lands, in Terra Incognita, As to Countries without People.


Besides, Countries and Languages being more known; And Mankind more acquainted than formerly: The Oppressed People remove into the next Country they |56| can find Shelter in, & become the Subjects of other Governments. By such Addition of Subjects, those Governments growing stronger, are better able to Resist the Incroaches of Empire: So that, every Conquest makes the next more difficult, from the Assistance of those People before Conquered; To Transplant the Conquered into a Remote Country, as formerly, Is not to be Practised; There is now no Room, the World is so full of People.


To Conquer, and leave them Free, only paying Tribute and Homage, Is the same as not to Conquer them: For there is no Reason to expect their Submission longer, than till they are able to Resist; which will not be long before they make the same Opposition, if they continue in the same Possession; and therefore, though the Romans in the Infan|57|cy of their Government, did leave several Countries Free, as an Assistance to other CONQUEST; yet, when they grew stronger, they turned all their Conquest into Provinces, being the surest way to keep them from Revolting.


These are the Difficulties of inlarging Dominion at Land, but are not Impediments to its Rise at Sea: For those Things that Obstruct the Growth of Empire at Land, do rather Promote its Growth at Sea. That the World is more Populous, is no Prejudice, there is Room enough upon the Sea; the many Fortified Towns may hinder the March of an Army, but not the Sailing of Ships: The Arts of Navigation being discover'd, hath added an Unlimited Compass to the Naval Power. There needs no Change of the Gothick Government; for that best Agrees with such an Empire.|58|


The Ways of preserving Conquests gain'd by Sea, are different from those at Land. By the one, the Cities, Towns and Villages are burnt, to thin the People, that they may be the easier Governed, and kept into Subjection; by the other, the Cities must be inlarged, and New ones built: Instead of Banishing the People, they must be continued, in their Possession, or invited to the Seat of Empire; by the one, the Inhabitants are inslaved, by the other, they are made Free: The Seat of such an Empire, must be in an Island, that their Defence may be solely in Shipping; the same way to defend their Dominion, as to inlarge it.


To Conclude, there needs no other Argument, That Empire may be raised sooner at Sea, than at Land; than by observing the Growth of the United Provinces, |59| within One Hundred Years last past, who have Changed their Style, from Poor Distressed, into that of High and Mighty States of the United Provinces: And Amsterdam, that was not long since, a poor Fisher-Town, is now one of the Chief Cities in Europe; and within the same Compass of Time, that the Spaniard & French have been endeavouring to Raise an Universal Empire upon the Land; they have risen to that Heighth, as to be an equal Match for either of them at Sea; and were their Government fitted for a Dominion of large Extent, and their Country separated from their Troublesome Neighbour the Continent, which would Free them from that Military Charge in defending themselves, they might, in a short Time, Contend for the Soveraignity of the Seats.


But England seems the Properer |60| Seat for such an Empire: It is an Island, therefore requires no Military Force to defend it. Besides, Merchants and Souldiers never thrive in the same Place; It hath many large Harbours fitting for a large Dominion: The Inhabitants are naturally Couragious, as appears from the Effects of the Climate, in the Game Cocks, and Mastiff Dogs, being no where else so stout: The Monarchy is both fitted for Trade and Empire. And were there an Act for a General Naturalization, that all Forreigners, purchasing Land in England, might Enjoy the Freedom of Englishmen, It might within much less Compass of Time, than any Government by Arms at Land, arrive to such a Dominion: For since, in some Parts of Europe, Mankind is harrassed and disturbed with Wars; Since, some Governours have incroached upon the Rights of their |61| Subjects, and inslaved them; Since the People of England enjoy the Largest Freedoms, and Best Government in the World; and since by Navigation and Letters, there is a great Commerce, and a General Acquaintance among Mankind, by which the Laws and the Liberties of all Nations, are known; those that are oppressed and inslaved, may probably Remove, and become the Subjects of England: And if the Subjects increase, the Ships, Excise and Customs, which are the Strength and Revenue of the Kingdom, will in Proportion increase, which may be so Great in a short T I M E, not only to preserve its Antient Soveraignty over the Narrow Seas, but to extend its Dominion over all the Great Ocean: An Empire, not less Glorious, & of a much larger Extent, than either Alexander's or Ceasar's.

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.
"Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae. Edito emendatior et copiosior, consilio B. G. Niebuhrii C. F. instituta auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Regiae Borussicae Continuata, Pars II: Procopius" (Bonnae, 1883); see I, 249-255 (De Bello Persico) and II, 162 (De Bello Gotthico).
"Ypodigma Neustriae" (ed. by Henry Thomas Riley in Gt. Brit. Rolls Chron., London, 1876); cf. p. 292 (A. D. 1349). The work was first published in 1574, and again appeared, as part of the "Anglica, Normannica, Hibernica, Cambrica, a Veteribus scripta," of William Camden, published at Frankfort in 1603.
Sir Matthew Hale (1609-76) "The Primitive Origination of Mankind, considered and examined according to the Light of Nature." According to the "Dictionary of National Biography" (XXIV, 22), the work was not published until after Hale's death.

Essay 7, Of the Chief Causes of the Decay of TRADE in England, and Fall of the RENTS of LAND

End of Notes

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