A Discourse of Trade

Barbon, Nicholas
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Jacob H. Hollander, ed.
First Pub. Date
Baltimore, MD: Lord Baltimore Press
Pub. Date
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|62|* Of the Chief Causes that Promote TRADE.


THE Chief Causes that Promote Trade, (not to mention Good Government, Peace, and Scituation, with other Advantages) are Industry in the Poor, and Liberality in the Rich: Liberality, is the free Usage of all those things that are made by the Industry of the Poor, for the Use of the Body and Mind; It Relates chiefly to Man's self, but doth not hinder him from being Liberal to others.


The Two Extreams to this Vertue, are Prodigality and Covetousness: Prodigality is a Vice that is prejudicial to the Man, but not to Trade; It is living a pace, and spending that in a Year, that should last all his |63| Life: Covetousness is a Vice, prejudicial both to Man & Trade; It starves the Man, and breaks the Trader; and by the same way the Covetous Man thinks he grows rich, he grows poor; for by not consuming the Goods that are provided for Man's Use, there ariseth a dead Stock, called Plenty, and the Value of those Goods fall, and the Covetous Man's Estates, whether in Land, or Mony, become less worth: And a Conspiracy of the Rich Men to be Covetous, and not spend, would be as dangerous to a Trading State, as a Forreign War; for though they themselves get nothing by their Covetousness, nor grow the Richer, yet they would make the Nation poor, and the Government great Losers in the Customs and Excises that ariseth from Expence. |64|


Liberality ought Chiefly to be Exercised in an equal Division of the Expence amongst those things that relate to Food, Cloaths, and Lodging; according to the Portion, or Station, that is allotted to every Man, with some allowance for the more refined Pleasures of the Mind; with such Distributions, as may please both sect of Philosophers, Platonist and Epicureans: The Belly must not be starved to cloath the Back-Part.


Those Expences that most Promote Trade, are in Cloaths and Lodging: In Adorning the Body and the House, There are a Thousand Traders Imploy'd in Cloathing and Decking the Body, and Building, and Furnishing of Houses, for one that is Imploy'd in providing Food. Belonging to Cloaths, is Fashion; which is the Shape or Form of Apparel. |65|


In some places, it is fixt and certain; as all over Asia, and in Spain; but in France, England, and other places, the Dress alters; Fashion or the alteration of Dress, is a great Promoter of Trade, because it occasions the Expence of Cloaths, before the Old ones are worn out: It is the Spirit and Life of Trade; It makes a Circulation, and gives a Value by Turns, to all sorts of Commodities; keeps the great Body of Trade in Motion; it is an Invention to Dress a Man, as if he Lived in a perpetual Spring; he never sees the Autum of his Cloaths: The following of the Fashion, Is a Respect paid to the Prince and his Court, by approving his Choice in the shape of the Dress. It lyes under an ill Name amongst many Grave and Sober People, but without any Just Cause; for those that Exclaim against the |66| Vanity of the New Fashion, and at the same time, commend the Decency of the Old one, forget that every Old Fashion was once New, and then the same Argument might have been used against it. And if an Indian, or Stranger, that never saw any person Cloathed before, were to be Judge of the Controversy, and were to Determin upon seeing at the same time a well Drest-Courtier in the New Fashion, and another in the Old, which is accounted Decent; and a third in the Robes of an Officer, which by common Esteem, had a Reverence: It will be Two to One, against any One of the Grave Fashions; for it's only Use and Custom by which Habits become Grave and Decent, and not any particular Conveniency in the shape; for if Conveniency were the Rule of Commendation, there would arise |67| a Question not Easily to be Determined, Whether the Spanish Garb made strait to the Body, or the loose Habit of the Turks, were to be Chosen? And therefore since all Habits are equally handsome, and hard to know which is most Convenient: The Promoting of New Fashions, ought to be Encouraged, because it provides a Livelihood for a great Part of Mankind.


The next Expence that chiefly promotes Trade, is Building, which is natural to Mankind, being the making of a Nest or Place for his Birth, it is the most proper and vible Distinction of Riches, and Greatness; because the Expences are too Great for Mean Persons to follow. It is a Pleasure fit to entertain Princes; for a Magnificent Structure doth best represent the Majesty of the Person that lives in it, and is the most lasting and |68| truest History of the Greatness of his Person.


Building is the chiefest Promoter of Trade; it Imploys a greater Number of Trades and People, than Feeding or Cloathing: The Artificers that belong to Building, such as Bricklayers, Carpenters, Plaisterers, &c. imploy many Hands; Those that make the Materials for Building, such as Bricks, Lyme, Tyle, &c. imploy more; and with those that Furnish the Houses, such as Upholsterers, Pewterers, &c. they are almost Innumerable.


In Holland, where Trade hath made the Inhabitants very Rich, It is the Care of the Government, to Incourage the Builder, and at the Charge of the State, the Grafts and Streets are made. And at Amsterdam, they have three Times, at great Expence, Thrown down the Walls of their |69| City, and Dreined the Boggs, to make Room for the Builder: For Houses are the Places where the Artificers make their Goods, and Merchants Sell them; and without New Houses, the Trades and Inhabitants could not Increase.


Beside, There is another great Advantage to Trade, by Enlarging of Cities; the Two Beneficial Expences of Cloathing and Lodging, are Increased; Man being Naturally Ambitious, the Living together, occasion Emulation, which is seen by Out-Vying one another in Apparel, Equipage, and Furniture of the House; whereas, if a Man lived Solitary alone, his chiefest Expence, would be Food. It is from this very Custom; If the Gentry of France Living in Cities, with the Invention of Fashion; That France, tho' a Country no way fitted for Trade, has so great a share |70| of it: It is from Fashion in Cloaths, and Living in Cities, That the King of France's Revenues is so great, by which he is become troublesome to his Neighbours, and will always be so, while he can preserve Peace within his own Country; by which, those Fountains of Riches, may run Interrupted into his Exchequer.

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.

End of Notes

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