Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE Introduction. - A Select Collection of Early English Tracts on Commerce from the Originals of Mun, Roberts, North, and Others
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THE Introduction. - John Ramsay McCulloch, A Select Collection of Early English Tracts on Commerce from the Originals of Mun, Roberts, North, and Others 
A Select Collection of Early English Tracts on Commerce from the Originals of Mun, Roberts, North, and Others, with a Preface and Index (London: Printed for the Political Economy Club, 1856).
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IT hath been the Common Design and Business of Individual Men in England, as elsewhere, to obtain sufficient Revenues in Money to the end they may secure themselves from Necessities and Shifting, and live plentifully; And yet it may be undeniably and uncomfortably observed, That whilst every one hath eagerly pursued his private Interest, a kind of Common Consumption hath crawled upon us: Since our Land-Rents are generally much fallen, and our Home-Commodities sunk from their late Price and Value; our Poor are vastly increased, and the rest of our People generally more and more feel the Want of Money; This Disease having grown upon us in times of Peace, when no Forreigners have Exhausted us by War-like Depredations, may very justly amuse us; and the more, when at the same time, we observe that some of our Neighbour-Nations, lately our Equals, or much our inferiors, are become so prodigiously Rich and Powerful on a sudden, (I mean the French and Dutch:) Certainly these mighty Productions must have some great and vigorous Causes, which have been very furiously working of later years, and such as have not fallen under Common Observation: The Nations and Races of People are the same, and theCountries of England, France, and Holland, stand where they did, they are not removed an Inch; nor do the English seem to have lost their Understandings; they are as cunning in their private Contracts as ever, and appear nothing inferior to the French and Dutch in most parts of Literature; I question not but that they know all the Ancient Languages and Histories as well, that our Academicks are as subtile in all the Criticisms of Aristotle; that they have travelled as far into the most abstruse parts of his Logick, Physicks, and Metaphysicks; and yet have we still grown poorer and poorer; So have we excelled in divers necessary parts of Learning; We have had as Able, Eloquent, and Eminent Lawyers and Clergy-men as ever, and as Notable Physitians, and the Nation seems to have grown more Learned, and therefore Wiser than before, by the late vast increase of these Ranks of men.
The present Disadvantages we are under, are therefore commonly attributed to Accidents of divers kinds, as mens present particular Fancies dictate, in which the greatest part are contented to rest satisfied without farther enquiry, whilst they have some Prospects of Gain in the Imployments they are severally educated to; Some ascribe the fall of Rents to an over-great increase of Corn, by the ploughing up of Parks; Others to the modern Parsimony in Housekeeping, the lessening of Gentlemens Retinues, and leaving off the old laudable Custom of plentiful Suppers, which they suppose occasions a less Consumption of Victuals: others attribute this, and the want of Money in the Country, to the great resort of People to London, and quarrel at the New Buildings, as the Hives and Receptacles which draw them thither; others to the banking up of Treasures in the Coffers of some unknown Grandees, Church-men, Lawyers, or Citizens, of which they are highly confident, for else, they say, what is become of the money? then for the lateProgress and Trophies of the French, many look upon them as the meer effects of the Despotick or Arbitrary Power of that Monarchy or of the personal cunning of some men now living in France; I remember I heard one Gentleman say, that the French Genius was up, wherewith he gave himself and others good satisfaction: Others will have it, that the late Enemies of the French wanted Valor and Conduct, but that if the French had the English to contend with, their Glory would soon be laid in the Dust: For the Dutch, there are those who will argue their Riches and Populacy to proceed from the peculiar Industry of that Nation, and that such an Eternal Toil is not supportable by any other; Others, to their small Expense in Diet and Habit, others to particular Circumstances in the time and manner of their Defection from Spain; to their Register of Titles and Contracts, and their cheap and easie decision of Law-Suits.
Of all other things we seem to be most secure in the matter of Trade; we have many who taking themselves to be born or intitled to so much a year in Land, do consider Trade as no otherwise necessary in a Nation, than to support younger Brothers, and are ready to thrust all Publique Taxes upon Trade, that they may ease the Land; Others who pretend to enquire into it, hear the Customs are much risen of late years, and then rest satisfied that we have a mightier Trade than ever: We have also some Merchants and Shopkeepers who get Estates, and buy Land on a suddain, which is lookt upon as an Argument of a good Trade; We find their mighty and numerous Shops and Warehouses, full of goods, and do not hear them complain of Trade, Or that Land is brought to 14 or 16 years purchase, or that they buy at a much abated yearly value.
Some, indeed, justly apprehending a Disease in our Trade, by the decay of our Home Manufactures, andan excess of Forreign Importations, have judiciously expressed themselves in it; these Notions whilst in Embrio, have been ralleured by our Modern Drolls, in their new Manufacture of Plays.
There are others, who with more Design and Gravity, tell us, That the Notions and Improvements of Trade, are of a dangerous tendency, because they threaten part of the present Jurisdiction of our Spiritual Courts, and the gain of many Offices, by some requisite Toleration of Conscience, and other mittigations relating to Trade, and upon this Occasion the same Objectors proceed to argue the Improvements of Trade to be of as bad Consequence to the State, by filling the Nation with Trading-Religious Dissenters, or by a necessary moderating of the present Custom-Rates: They also insinuate, that we ought not to look for such a perfection of Trade under a Monarchical Government, but to dispose of our selves otherwise as we can; We have others that say, Trade is a misterious thing, and not intelligible in any part of it, without a long Apprentiship, and therefore wholly refer themselves to the Merchants and private Traders; Others that ’tis Mechanical, and not Gentleman-like.
But if it fall out that these are all mistaken Opinions, if Trade alone hath produced the afore-mentioned Effects in England, France, and Holland, If the rise and fall of Rents absolutely depend upon it; If Liberty and Property be made valuable by Trade only, and are not valuable or safe without it; If a Nation may be made strong or weak by the meer different Operations of Trade; If the Taxing or burthening of Trade must reduce all Land-Revenues, if the easing of Trade either in the particular Custom-Rates, or otherwise, will make the whole Revenue of the Customs greater, or else much enhance all other publick as well as private Revenues; If a mighty Trade be consistent with a Monarchical Government? (wherethere is Property and Liberty:) If it be a false and officious Scandal to this form of Government, to affirm the contrary, if England of all other Nations, be naturally most capable of the Advantages of Trade, but yet the Trade of England of late years hath been Consumptive; If the late Policies of our Neighbour-Nations have rendered our old established Methods of Trade insufficient, if we have divers late innovated Obstructions in our Trade, if this hath caused an over-ballance of Forreign Importations, If our National Industry hath been imployed to enrich Forreigners, if our own Treasures have been exhausted by our own Trade, and will soon be swept away in the present course of it, Nay, even notwithstanding our late Prohibition of French Goods, if the Objections against the enlarging and bettering of our Trade arise from private Interests, in contradiction to the Publique, or from Passion or Humour, and if this be intelligible to every man of sense, that will take the pains to enquire into it. Then certainly it must follow,
That it does much import all English Gentlemen, Owners of Land, and others, who take themselves to be sharers in the National Interest, to examine the past and present State of our Trade, and to seek for a legal Regulation of it; And that all private Interests destructive to our Trade ought to be relaxed, and given up for the future.
Private Interest is that many-headed Monster, I am chiefly to encounter with, in which if any particular person shall take himself to be concerned, I shall desire him to consider, whether his own Condition would not be more truly honourable and safe under more open Methods of Trade? I shall pray him to look into the nature of meer private Interest, which if he do, he must confess it the same Principle that leads men into Cheats, Thefts, and all those other base mercyless and execrable Villanies, which render the Actors Criminous, and odious by the Sufferings and Injuries they bring upon others.
Then if any man’s particular way of Gain be so prejudicial to Trade, as to occasion the continual Beggery of Thousands of his Countrymen, is not this more then equally mischievous to so many thousand Thefts? But what if this Beggery must unavoidably cause many thousand actual Thefts, nay Murders and Enormities of all kinds, and as it grows more Universal, must bring the Nation into an impotent and indefenseable weakness? Have we any amongst us that will be yet tenacious of such ways of Gain? Will they tell us that they are not punishable by any Laws in force? ’tis pity they are not. So there was a time when in Old Rome, there was no direct Law against Parricide: But that they may no longer shelter themselves under this Umbrage, it were highly necessary that Laws were made to control them, and to remove all Obstructions in our Trade.
That Trade is of this National Importance and Influence, and that the Trade of England in particular, hath been and continues under these Disadvantages, will, I think, sufficiently appear to any indifferent Reader, by the following Discourse; Of which having given the Reader a tast, by way of Introduction, I shall proceed to what I have undertaken, and shall begin with some Preliminaries, of which part are self-evident, and for those that are not (being not able to say all at once) refer the Reader to the following Sections.