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Dudley North, Discourses upon Trade - 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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Dudley North, Discourses upon Trade
THese Papers came directed to me, in order, as I suppose to be made Publick: And having transmitted them to the Press, which is the only means whereby the University of Mankind is to be inform’d, I am absolv’d of that Trust.
The Author is pleas’d to conceal himself; which after perusal of his Papers, I do not ascribe to any Diffidence of his Reasons, the Disgusts of Great Men, nor over-much Modesty, which are the ordinary Inducements for lying hid; but rather to avoid the Fatigue of digesting, and polishing his Sentiments into such accurate Method, and clean Style, as the World commonly expects from Authors: I am confident he seeks only the Publick Good, and little regards Censure for the want of Neatness, and Dress, whereof he seems to make a slight account, and to rely wholly upon the Truth, and Justice of his Matter; yet he may reasonably decline the being noted, for either a careless, or an illiterate Person.
The Publick is an acute, as well as merciless Beast, which neither over-sees a Failing, nor forgives it; but stamps Judgment and Execution immediately, tho’ upon a Member of itself; and is no less Ingrateful than common Beggars, who affront their Benefactors, without whose Charity their Understandings would starve.
Wherefore I cannot but excuse our Friend’s Retirement, and shall take advantage of his absence so far, as to speak of his Discourses with more freedom, than I verily believe his Presence would bear.
As for the Style, you will find it English, such as Men speaks, which, according to Horace, is the Law and Rule of Language. Nor do I perceive that the Gentleman intendedmore than his Title holds forth; common Discourses, which possibly were taken by an Amanuensis, and dispatcht without much Correction. Surely no Man would refuse the Conversation of an ingenious Friend, because he doth not speak like Tully; And if the Conversation be so desirable, why should we quarrel with the same thing in Writing? Nay, it is very impolitick, by such Exactions of Labour and Pains, to discourage all Ingenious Persons from medling in Print, whereby we lose the benefit of their Judgment, in matters of common concern.
Words are indeed a Felicity, which some have in great perfection; but many times, like a fair Face, prove Temptations to Vice; for I have known very good Sence neglected, and post-poned to an Elegance of Expression; whereas if Words are wanted, the whole Effort is made by pure strength of Reason, and that only is relied on.
The Lawyers in their Deeds, wave all the Decorums of Language, and regard only incontrovertible Expressions. The Merchants in their Policies and Exchanges, use no one Word but what is necessary to their Point, because the Matter and Substance only is intended, and not the Dress; Why then should Reasoners be incumbred, beyond what is necessary to make their Reason understood?
To speak very short, and yet clear, is a Vertue to be envyed; and if directed to Persons, or Assemblies whose business is great, or made so by many Mens interposing in it, it is absolutely necessary; for your Discourse, if it be tedious, is better spared than the time; but it is not so in dealing with lazy Ignorance of any sort, or an Ear-itching Rabble, who are actually impertinent (as well as impetuous) and not sensible of cheat. And I may add, That in Writing, unless in the Epistolary way, (which being supposed hasty, ought to be short and figurative) an abundance of Words is more pardonable than obscurity, or want of Sence, because we take our own time, and have leisure to peruse it.
I will grant that amongst opulent and idle Persons, as well as Schollars, whose business lies in Words, the bare polishing of Language, is one of the most commendable Entertainments;and to them we resign it; for to Men of business, it is the most hateful thing, I mean, meer Idleness.
I grant also, that delicacy of Words, now most used in Poetry, is useful for disposing wayward People to learn, or make them endure to read. But the World is not at such low ebb of Curiosity in this Age. Men are forward enough to run their Noses into Books, especially such as deal in Faction and Controversie: And it were well if they were either Wrote or Read with as much Integrity as Industry; we have no need of Sugar-plum devices to wheedle Men into Reading, they are Inquisitive enough; and if the Subject be their own Interest, I am of Opinion, if you can make ’em understand it, you may trust them.
As for the Method used in these Papers, there is so little of it affected, that I am afraid some will say there is none at all: I never thought that true Method consisted in affected Divisions, and Sub-divisions, Firsts, Seconds, Sub-firsts, &c. tho’ all that is very useful in Works intended to be consulted as Repertories; but where the Understanding is to be informed, it is meer trash, and the business is often lost in it.
And in such Designs it is enough, if Things lie in the Order of Nature, and the Conclusion is not put before the Premisses, so that the course of the Argument is limpid, and intelligible: A Friend of mine used to say, That if the First Chapter were before the Second, it was all the Method he cared for, meaning only what I have observed, which I suppose you will find here.
This drudgery of Digesting, is another Excise upon Sence, which keeps back a great deal of it from coming forth; and without a singular tallent, and much exercise, it makes composing extreamly difficult. I do not understand why other Men, as well as Mountaigne, may not be indulged to ramble in Essays, provided the Sence fails not.
The Scalligerana, Pirroana, Pensees, and Mr. Selden’s Table-talk, are all heaps of incoherent scraps; yet for the wit and spirit esteemed; therefore let that which is most valuable, Reason and Truth, be encouraged to come abroad, without imposing such chargeable Equipages upon it, whereby Writers are made to resemble Brewers Horses, very useful Animals, but arrant Drudges.
Methinks when I meet with a great deal of Firsting, and Seconding, I smell one who conceits himself an Author, a Creature as fulsome as any other sort of Impertinents. If there be Reason, and that understood, what could the formal Methodist add? Let me have the Cockle, and who will take the gay shell.
Now after all this it will be injust, not to say somewhat of the Subject-matter of these Discourses, which is Commerce and Trade; and the Author’s manner of Treating it.
He seems to be of a Temper different from most, who have medled with this Subject in Publick; for it is manifest, his Knowledge and Experience of Trade is considerable, which could not be attained, unless he were a Trader himself; and yet it is not to be collected from any thing he says, of what Nature his dealing hath been; for he speaks impartially of Trade in general, without warping to the Favour of any particular Interest. It hath been observed formerly, when Merchants have been consulted, and the Questions concerned only Trade in general, they agreed in Opinion; but when opposite Interests were concerned, they differed toto cœlo. As for his Opinion touching Interest of Money, wherein he is clear, that it should be left freely to the Market, and not be restrained by Law, he is lyable to the same suspicion, which attends those of a different Judgment; that is, partiality to his own Interest; the difference is only in the supposed Cause, which in the one, is Wealth, and in the other Want. He hath given his Judgment with his Reasons, which every one is free to canvas; and there is no other means whereby a wise and honest Person can justifie his Opinions in Publick Concerns.
In the next place, I find Trade here Treated at another rate, than usually hath been; I mean Philosophically: for the ordinary and vulgar conceits, being meer Husk and Rubbish, are waived; and he begins at the quick, from Principles indisputably true; and so proceeding with like care, comes to a Judgment of the nicest Disputes and Questions concerning Trade. And this with clearness enough, for he reduceth things to their Extreams, wherein all discriminations are most gross and sensible, and then shews them; and not in the state of ordinary concerns, whereof the terms are scarce distinguishable.
This Method of Reasoning hath been introduc’d with the new Philosophy, the old dealt in Abstracts more than Truths; and was employed about forming Hypotheses, to fit abundance of precarious and insensible Principles; such as the direct or oblique course of the Atomes in vacuo, Matter and Form, Privation, solid Orbs, fuga vacui, and many others of like nature; whereby they made sure of nothing; but upon the appearance of Des Cartes’ excellent dissertation de Methodo, so much approved and accepted in our Ages, all those Chymera’s soon dissolved and vanisht.
And hence it is, that Knowledge in great measure is become Mechanical; which word I need not interpret farther, than by noting, it here means, built upon clear and evident Truths. But yet this great Improvement of Reason which the World hath lately obtained, is not diffus’d enough, and resides chiefly with the studious and learned, the common People having but a small share; for they cannot abstract, so as to have a true and just thought of the most ordinary things, but are possest and full of the vulgar Errors of sense: Except in some few things that fall within the compass of their day-labour, and so gives them an Experience; As when a Common-Seaman, with all his Ignorance, proves a better Mechanick, for actual Service, than the Professor himself, with all his Learning.
The case of Trade is the same; for although to buy and sell, be the Employment of every man, more or less; and the Common People, for the most part, depend upon it for their daily subsistence; yet there are very few who consider Trade in general upon true Principles, but are satisfied to understand their own particular Trades, and which way to let themselves into immediate gain. And out of this active Sphere nothing is so fallacious, and full of Error, as mens Notions of Trade. And there is another Reason, why this matter seems less understood, than in truth it is. For whenever Men consult for the Publick Good, as for the advancement of Trade, wherein all are concerned, they usually esteem the immediate Interest of their own to be the common Measure of Good and Evil. And there are many, who to gain a little in their own Trades, care not how much others suffer; and each Man strives, that all others may be forc’d, in their dealings, to actsubserviently for his Profit, but under the covert of the Publick.
So Clothiers would have men be forc’d to buy their Manufacture; and I may mention such as sell Wool, they would have men forc’d to buy of them at an high Price, though the Clothier loseth. The Tinners would have their Tin dear, though the Merchant profits little: And in general all those who are lazy, and do not, or are not active enough and cannot, look out, to vent the Product of their Estates, or to Trade with it themselves, would have all Traders forc’d by Laws, to bring home to them sufficient Prizes, whether they gain or lose by it. And all the while, not one of them will endure to be under a force, to Sell, or Let their own Estates at lower rates, than the free Market of things will produce.
Now it is no wonder, that out of these Ingredients a strange Medley of Error should result, whereby seldom any Publick Order, which hath been establisht, and intended, or at least pretended for the good of Trade in general, hath had a suitable Effect; but on the contrary, hath for the most part proved prejudicial, and thereupon, by common consent, been discontinued. But this is too copious Matter for a Preface, and tho’ many Instances occur, I leave all, and return to the matter of Vulgar Errors in Trade.
It is not long since there was a great noise with Inquiries into the Balance of Exportation and Importation; and so into the Balance of Trade, as they called it. For it was fancyed that if we brought more Commodities in, than we carried out, we were in the High-way to Ruin. In like manner have we heard much said against the East-India Trade, against the French Trade, with many other like politick conceits in Trade; most of which, Time and better Judgment hath disbanded; but others succeed in their room, according as new Persons find Encouragement to invent, and inspire, for promoting their private Interest, by imposing on those, who desire to be cunning. And now we complain for want of Money in specie, that Bullion is Exported or mis-employed to other uses, than making Money; and ascribe the deadness of Trade, especially of Corn, and Cattel in the Country, to this; and hope by a Regulation of the Bullion-Trade, and stinting thePrice, except it be in Money, to make a through Reformation, and give new Life to all things, with much more, ejusdem farina, which I do not particularize, this being enough for a taste.
Now it may appear strange to hear it said,
That the whole World as to Trade, is but as one Nation or People, and therein Nations are as Persons.
That the loss of a Trade with one Nation, is not that only, separately considered, but so much of the Trade of the World rescinded and lost, for all is combined together.
That there can be no Trade unprofitable to the Publick; for if any prove so, men leave it off; and wherever the Traders thrive, the Publick, of which they are a part, thrives also.
That to force Men to deal in any prescrib’d manner, may profit such as happen to serve them; but the Publick gains not, because it is taking from one Subject, to give to another.
That no Laws can set Prices in Trade, the Rates of which, must and will make themselves: But when such Laws do happen to lay any hold, it is so much Impediment to Trade, and therefore prejudicial.
That Money is a Merchandize, whereof there may be a glut, as well as a scarcity, and that even to an Inconvenience.
That a People cannot want Money to serve the ordinary dealing, and more than enough they will not have.
That no Man shall be the richer for the making much Money, nor have any part of it, but as he buys it for an equivalent price.
That the free Coynage is a perpetual Motion found out, whereby to Melt and Coyn without ceasing, and so to feed Goldsmiths and Coyners at the Publick Charge.
That debasing the Coyn is defrauding one another, and to the Publick there is no sort of Advantage from it; for that admits no Character, or Value, but Intrinsick.
That the sinking Money by Allay or Weight is all one.
That Exchange and ready Money, are the same, nothing but Carriage and re-carriage being saved.
That Money Exported in Trade is an increase to the Wealth of the Nation; but spent in War, and Payments abroad, is so much Impoverishment.
In short, That all favour to one Trade or Interest against another, is an Abuse, and cuts so much of Profit from the Publick. With many other like Paradoxes, no less strange to most men, than true in themselves; but in my Opinion, clearly flowing from the Principles, and Discourses that follow, which you may freely peruse and censure, for now I have done.
Perhaps my unknown Confident may think me too saucy, for putting my Oar into his Boat, and I will not excuse my self to him, otherwise than by demanding the same Liberty he hath taken; that is, to have a fling at the World; and as yet the Advantage is his, for he hath two, and better, for my one. And so Farewel.
A DISCOURSE Concerning the Abatement of INTEREST.
ARguments for Abatement of Interest are many, viz.
I. When Interest is less, Trade is incourag’d, and the Merchant can be a Gainer; whereas, when it is great, the Usurer, or Money-owner takes all.
II. The Dutch, with whom Interest is low, Trade cheaper, and under-sell us.
III. Land falls in value, as Interest riseth.
With divers others, whereof the Facts may be true, but proceed from another Cause, and conduce nothing to the purpose for which they are alledg’d.
I shall not formally apply my self to answer all the Arguments and Discourses, that commonly are found in Pamphlets, and Conversation upon this Subject; as if I were to Advocate the Cause of Interest: But give my thoughts impartially in the whole matter, with regard to the Profit of the whole Nation, and to no particular Person’s project: Wherein I hope to propose that which may resolve any doubt that can be raised, and leave every one to apply it, as they think fit.
The Question to be considered is, Whether the Government have reason by a Law, to prohibit the taking more than 4l. per Cent. Interest for Money lent, or to leave the Borrower and Lender to make their own Bargains.
In the Disquisition of this, many things are to be considered, and particularly such as relate to Trade, of which a true Notion will set right a World of Mistakes, wherefore that now shall be chiefly treated of.
Trade is nothing else but a Commutation of Superfluities; for instance: I give of mine, what I can spare, for somewhat of yours, which I want, and you can spare.
Thus Trade, whilst it is restrained within the limits of a Town, Country, or Nation, signifieth only the Peoples supplying each other with Conveniences, out of what that Town, Country, or Nation affords.
And in this, he who is most diligent, and raiseth most Fruits, or maketh most of Manufactory, will abound most in what others make, or raise; and consequently be free from Want, and enjoy most Conveniences, which is truly to be Rich, altho’ there were no such thing as Gold, Silver, or the like amongst them.
Mettals are very necessary for many Uses, and are to be reckon’d among the Fruits and Manufactories of the World. And of these, Gold and Silver being by nature very fine, and more scarce than others, are higher prized; and a little of them is very reasonably esteem’d equal in value with a great quantity of other Mettals, &c. For which reason, and moreover that they are imperishable, as well as convenient for easie stowage and removal, and not from any Laws, they are made a Standard, or common Measure to deal with; and all Mankind concur in it, as every one knows, therefore I need not inlarge further in this matter.
Now it is to be consider’d, that Mankind being fallen into a way of commuting in this manner, to serve their occasions, some are more provident, others more profuse; some by their Industry and Judgment raise more Fruits from the Earth, than they consume in supplying their own occasions; and then the surplus remains with them, and is Property or Riches.
And Wealth thus contracted, is either commuted for other Mens Land (supposing all men to have had some) or massed up in heaps of Goods; be the same of Mettals, or any thing valuable. And those are the Rich, who transmit what they have to their Posterity; whereby particular Families become rich; and of such are compounded Cities, Countries, Nations, &c.
And it will be found, that as some particular men in a Town grow richer, and thrive better than others; so also do Nations, who by Trade serving the occasions of their Neighbours, supply themselves with what they have occasion for from abroad; which done, the rest is laid up, and is Silver, Gold, &c. for as I said, these being commutable for every thing, and of small bulk, are still preferr’d to be laid up, till occasion shall call them out to supply other Necessaries wanted.
Now Industry and Ingenuity having thus distinguisht Men into Rich and Poor; What is the consequence? One rich Man hath Lands, not only more than he can manage, but so much, that letting them out to others, he is supplied with a large over-plus, so needs no farther care.
Another rich Man hath Goods; that is, Mettals, Manufactures, &c. in great quantity, with these he serves his own occasions, and then commutes the rest in Trade; that is, supplies others with what they want, and takes in exchange what they had of, beyond their own occasions, whereby managing cunningly, he must always advance.
Now as there are more Men to Till the Ground than have Land to Till, so also there will be many who want Stock to manage; and also (when a Nation is grown rich) there will be Stock for Trade in many hands, who either have not the skill, or care not for the trouble of managing it in Trade.
But as the Landed Man letts his Land, so these still lett their Stock; this latter is call’d Interest, but is only Rent for Stock, as the other is for Land. And in several Languages, hiring of Money, and Lands, are Terms of common use; and it is so also in some Counties in England.
Thus to be a Landlord, or a Stock-lord is the same thing; the Landlord hath the advantage only in this: That his Tenant cannot carry away the Land, as the Tenant of the other may the Stock; and therefore Land ought to yield less profit than Stock, which is let out at the greater hazard.
These things consider’d, it will be found, that as plenty makes cheapness in other things, as Corn, Wool, &c. when they come to Market in greater Quantities than there are Buyers to deal for, the Price will fall; so if there be more Lenders than Borrowers, Interest will also fall; wherefore it is not low Interest makes Trade, but Trade increasing, the Stock of the Nation makes Interest low.
It is said, that in Holland Interest is lower than in England. I answer; It is, because their Stock is greater than ours. I cannot hear that they ever made a Law to restrain Interest, but am certainly informed, that at this day, the Currant Interest between Merchant and Merchant, when they disburse Money for each others Account, is 6 per Cent. and the Law justifies it.
I allow Money is many times lent at 3, and 4 per Cent. but it is upon Mortgages, out of which the State hath a Duty, and by the course of Titles there, such dealing is perfectly safe; and this is still by private consent and agreement, and not by co-ersion and order of Law. The like often happens here, when poor Widows and Orphans purchase the Security of their Livelihoods, and punctual Payment, by lending at small Interest, to such as need not the Money.
It might not be amiss in this place, to say somewhat of the Publick Banks that are in Forreign Parts, as Amsterdam, Venice, &c. but that is a Subject I have not time to dilate upon: I shall only say, that it is a cunning way of supplying the Government once with a great Sum; and as long as the Government stands, it is no loss to them that have the Credit, nor no great Inconveniency; for all Bills of Exchange are made by Law payable in Bank, and not otherwise; for Dealers in Exchanges it is best that way, and such as want their Money, find no difficulty in selling their Credits, the price of which riseth and falleth according to Demanders, as of other things.
I do not understand that true, two Banks pay any Interest; it is true there are several Funds, viz. The Mint in Venice, and the Chamber in Amsterdam, with several others in those, and other Cities, where Money is put out at Interest for Lives, and several other ways, and at different Rates, more or less, according to the Credit these Funds have, which are the Security; and these may, by mistake, be called the Banks, which they are not, being only such as the Chamber of London, East-India House, &c. were.
I do not believe, but the Usurer, according to the saying, will take half a Loaf, rather than no Bread: But I averr, that high Interest will bring Money out from Hoards, Plate, &c. into Trade, when low Interest will keep it back.
Many Men of great Estates, keep by them for State and Honour, great Quantities of Plate, Jewels, &c. which certainly they will be more inclin’d to do, when Interest is very low, than when it is high.
Such as have nothing to subsist by, but the Interest of Money, must either let it out, or Trade with it themselves, and be contented with what they can get; but that hinders not, but very many other Men, who are rich, and not so prest, may, if Interest be very low, choose to make use of their Stocks in Jewels, Plate, &c. rather than run the hazards, and be at the trouble of dealing with necessitous and knavish Men, such as many Borrowers are, for inconsiderable gains.
So that it cannot be denied, but the lowering of Interest may, and probably will keep some Money from coming abroad into Trade; whereas on the contrary, high Interest certainly brings it out.
Next is to be considered, that Dealings between Borrowers and Lenders are of two kinds: 1. Upon Mortgage, or Pawn. 2. Upon Personal Security, and that either by single Bond, or with Sureties; all which, as they differ in goodness, so ought in reason to bear different Prizes. Shall any Man be bound to lend a single Person, upon the same Terms, as others lend upon Mortgages, or Joynt Obligations?
Then again it is to be considered, that the Moneys imployed at Interest in this Nation, are not near the Tenth part, disposed to Trading People, wherewith to manage their Trades; but are for the most part lent for the supplying of Luxury, and to support the Expence of Persons, who though great Owners of Lands, yet spend faster than their Lands bring in; and being loath to sell, choose rather to mortgage their Estates.
So that in truth an Ease to Interest, will rather be a Support to Luxury, than to Trade; the poor Trading Man, who hath but a narrow Stock, or none at all, supplies himself by buying Goods of rich Men at time, and thereby pays Interest, not at the rate of 5, 6, or 8, but 10, 12, and more per Cent. And this is not in the Power of any Legislature to prevent, or remedy.
It may be said, let him take Money at Interest, and not buy at Time. But then Men must be found, that will lend; the Legislative must provide a Fund to borrow upon.
The Trade of setting out Ships, runs very much upon this course, wherein it is usual to Bum ’em (as they call it) at 36 per Cent. And this cannot be remedied; and if it were, it would be a stop, as well to the Building, as the setting out of many Ships; whereby, after all, not only the publick, but the private Persons concern’d are Gainers for the most part.
Thus when all things are considered, it will be found best for the Nation to leave the Borrowers and the Lender to make their own Bargains, according to the Circumstances they lie uuder; and in so doing you will follow the course of the wise Hollanders, so often quoted on this account: and the consequences will be, that when the Nation thrives, and grows rich, Money will be to be had upon good terms, but the clean contrary will fall out, when the Nation grows poorer and poorer.
Let any one Answer me, why do not the Legislators in those poor Countries, where Interest is at 10, & 12 per Cent. make such Laws to restrain Interest, and reduce it for the good of the People? If they should attempt it, it wou’d soon appear, that such Laws would not be effectual to do it. For when there are more Borrowers than Lenders, as in poor Countries, where if a rich Man hath 100l. to dispose, and there are four, five or more Men striving for it; the Law would be evaded by underhand Bargains, making Loans in Goods, drawing Bills, and a thousand ways beside; which cannot be prevented.
It is probable that when Laws restrain Interest of Money, below the Price, which the Reason of Trade settles, and Traders cannot (as we will suppose) evade the Law, or not without great difficulty, or hazard, and have not Credit to borow at Legal Interest, to make, or increase their Stock; so much of Trade is lopt off; and there cannot be well a greater obstruction to diminish Trade then that would be. The consideration of all these Matters, makes out an universal Maxime, That as more Buyers than Sellers raiseth the price of a Commodity, so more Borrowers than Lenders, will raise Interest.
And the State may with as much Justice make a Law that Lands which heretofore have been Lett for 10s. per Acre, shall not now be Lett for above 8s. per Acre, as that Money, or Stock, from 5 per Cent. shall be Lett for 4 per Cent. the Property being as good, and as much the Substance of the Kingdom in the one, as in the other.
I will not say any thing to the Theological Arguments against Interest of Moneys; by those 3 per Cent. is no more lawful, than 4, or 12. But this I shall maintain Politically, that if you take away Interest, you take away Borrowing, and Lending. And in consequence the Gentry, who are behind hand, be it for what cause soever, must sell, and cannot Mortgage; which will bring down the Price of Land. And the Trader whatever his skill is, if he hath no Stock, must either sit still, or buy at Time, which is Interest under another Name. And they who are poor, will always be so, and we should soon relapse into the state of One Thousand Years ago.
And whereas the Stock of the Nation is now reckon’d great, let it be fairly valued, and it will be found much less than it seems to be; for all the Monies that are owing upon Land Securities, must be struck off, and not estimated; or else you will have a wrong Account; for if a Gentleman of 500l. per Annum, owes 8000l. and you value his Land, and the Lender’s Stock both, you make an account of the same thing twice.
And whereas we make great Accounts of Money’d Men in the Nation, in truth there are but few; for suppose all that have lent upon Mortgage had Land for their Moneys, as indeed in strictness of Law they have, there wou’d be but few Money’d Men in the Nation left. The borrowing of Money of one, to pay another, call’d, Robbing of Peter to pay Paul, so much practis’d now a-days, makes us think the Nation far richer than it is.
A Discourse ofCoyned Money.
IN the former Discourse, it hath been already made appear, that Gold and Silver for their scarcity, have obtained in small quantities, to equal in value far greater quantities of other Metals, &c. And farther, from their easie Removal, and convenient Custody, have also obtained to be the common Measure in the World between Man and Man in their dealings, as well for Land, Houses, &c. as for Goods and other Necessaries.
For the greater Improvement of this Convenience, and to remove some Difficulties, which would be very troublesome, about knowing quantities and qualities in common and ordinary dealing: Princes and States have made it a matter of Publick concern, to ascertain the Allay, and to determine the Weights, viz. the quantities of certain Pieces, which we call Coyn, or Money: and such being distinguish’d by Stamps, and Inscriptions, it is made difficult, and highly Penal to Counterfeit them.
By this means the Trade of the World is made easie, and all the numerous species of several Commodities have a common Measure. Besides the Gold and Silver being thus coyned into Money, and so become more useful for Commerce than in the Log or Block, hath in all places, except in England since the free Coynage, reasonably obtained a greater value than it had before: And that not only above the real charge of making it so, but is become a State-Revenue (except as before) tho’ not very great. Whereas if Silver coyned and uncoyned bore the same rate, as it doth with us in England, where it is coyned at the Charge of the Publick, it will be lyable frequently to be melted down, as I shall shew anon.
Money being thus the Common Measure of Buying and Selling, every body who hath any thing to sell, and cannot procure Chapmen for it, is presently apt to think, that want of Money in the Kingdom, or Country is the cause why his Goods do not go off; and so, want of Money, is the common Cry; which is a great mistake, as shall be shewn. I grant all stop in Trade proceeds from some cause; but it is not from the want of specifick Money, there being other Reasons for it; as will appear by the following Discourse.
No Man is richer for having his Estate all in Money, Plate, &c. lying by him, but on the contrary, he is for that reason the poorer. That man is richest, whose Estate is in a growing condition, either in Land at Farm, Money at Interest, or Goods in Trade: If any man, out of an humour, should turn all his Estate into Money, and keep it dead, he would soon be sensible of Poverty growing upon him, whilst he is eating out of the quick stock.
But to examine the matter closer, what do these People want, who cry out for Money? I will begin with the Beggar; he wants, and importunes for Money: What would he do with it if he had it? buy Bread, &c. Then in truth it is not Money, but Bread, and other Necessaries for Life that he wants. Well then, the Farmer complains, for the want of Money; surely it is not for the Beggar’s Reason, to sustain Life, or pay Debts; but he thinks that were more Money in the Country, he should have a Price for his Goods. Then it seems Money is not his want, but a Price for his Corn, and Cattel, which he would sell, but cannot. If it be askt, if the want of Money be not, what then is the reason, why he cannot get a price? I answer, it must proceed from one of these three Causes.
1. Either there is too much Corn and Cattel in the Country, so that most who come to Market have need of selling, as he hath, and few of buying: Or, 2. There wants the usual vent abroad, by Transportation, as in time of War, when Trade is unsafe, or not permitted. Or, 3. The Consumption fails, as when men by reason of Poverty, do not spend so much in their Houses as formerly they did; wherefore it is not the increase of specifick Money, which would at all advance the Farmers Goods, but the removal of any of these three Causes, which do truly keep down the Market.
The Merchant and Shop-keeper want Money in the same manner, that is, they want a Vent for the Goods they deal in, by reason that the Markets fail, as they will always upon any cause, like what I have hinted. Now to consider what is the true source of Riches, or in the common Phrase, plenty of Money, we must look a little back, into the nature and steps of Trade.
Commerce and Trade, as hath been said, first springs from the Labour of Man, but as the Stock increases, it dilates more and more. If you suppose a Country to have nothing in it but the Land it self, and the Inhabitants; it is plain that at first, the People have only the Fruits of the Earth, and Metals raised from the Bowels of it, to Trade withal, either by carrying out into Foreign Parts, or by selling to such as will come to buy of them, whereby they may be supplyed with the Goods of other Countries wanted there.
In process of time, if the People apply themselves industriously, they will not only be supplied, but advance to a great overplus of Forreign Goods, which improv’d, will enlarge their Trade. Thus the English Nation will sell unto the French, Spaniards, Turk, &c. not only the product of their own Country, as Cloath, Tin, Lead, &c. but also what they purchase of others, as Sugar, Pepper, Callicoes, &c. still buying where Goods are produc’d, and cheap, and transporting them to Places where they are wanted, making great advantage thereby.
In this course of Trade, Gold and Silver are in no sort different from other Commodities, but are taken from them who have Plenty, and carried to them who want, or desire them, with as good profit as other Merchandizes. So that an active prudent Nation groweth rich, and the sluggish Drones grow poor; and there cannot be any Policy other than this, which being introduc’d and practis’d, shall avail to increase Trade and Riches.
But this Proposition, as single and plain as it is, is seldom so well understood, as to pass with the generality of Mankind; but they think by force of Laws, to retain in their Country all the Gold and Silver which Trade brings in; and thereby expect to grow rich immediately: All which is a profound Fallacy, and hath been a Remora, whereby the growing Wealth of many Countries have been obstructed.
The Case will more plainly appear, if it be put of a single Merchant, or if you please to come nearer the point, of a City or County only.
Let a Law be made, and what is more, be observ’d, that no Man whatsoever shall carry any Money out of a particular Town, County, or Division, with liberty to carry Goods of any sort: so that all the Money which every one brings with him, must be left behind, and none be carried out.
The consequence of this would be, that such Town, or County were cut off from the rest of the Nation; and no Man would dare to come to Market with his Money there; because he must buy, whether he likes, or not: and on the other side, the People of that place could not go to other Markets as Buyers, but only as Sellers, being not permitted to carry any Money out with them.
Now would not such a Constitution as this, soon bring a Town or County to a miserable Condition, with respect to their Neighbours, who have free Commerce, whereby the Industrious gain from the slothful and luxurious part of Mankind? The Case is the same, if you extend your thought from a particular Nation, and the several Divisions, and Cities, with the Inhabitants in them, to the whole World, and the several Nations, and Governments in it. And a Nation restrained in its Trade, of which Gold and Silver is a principal, if not an essential Branch, would suffer, and grow poor, as a particular place within a Country, as I have discoursed. A Nation in the World, as to Trade, is in all respects like a City in a Kingdom, or Family in a City.
Now since the Increase of Trade is to be esteem’d the only cause that Wealth and Money increase, I will add some farther Considerations upon that subject.
The main spur to Trade, or rather to Industry and Ingenuity, is the exorbitant Appetites of Men, which they will take pains to gratifie, and so be disposed to work, when nothing else will incline them to it; for did Men content themselves with bare Necessaries, we should have a poor World.
The Glutton works hard to purchase Delicacies, wherewith to gorge himself; the Gamester, for Money to venture at Play; the Miser, to hoard; and so others. Now in their pursuit of those Appetites, other Men less exorbitant, are benefitted; and tho’ it may be thought few profit by the Miser, yet it will be found otherwise, if we consider, that besides the humour of every Generation, to dissipate what another had collected, there is benefit from the very Person of a covetous Man; for if he labours with his own hands, his Labour is very beneficial to them who imploy him; if he doth not work, but profit by the Work of others, then those he sets on work have benefit by their being employed.
Countries which have sumptuary Laws, are generally poor; for when Men by those Laws are confin’d to narrower Expence than otherwise they would be, they are at the same time discouraged from the Industry and Ingenuity which they would have imployed in obtaining wherewithal to support them, in the full latitude of Expence they desire.
It is possible Families may be supported by such means, but then the growth of Wealth in the Nation is hindered; for that never thrives better, then when Riches are tost from hand to hand.
The meaner sort seeing their Fellows become rich, and great, are spurr’d up to imitate their Industry. A Tradesman sees his Neighbour keep a Coach, presently all his Endeavours is at work to do the like, and many times is beggered by it; however the extraordinary Application he made, to support his Vanity, was beneficial to the Publick, tho’ not enough to answer his false Measures as to himself.
It will be objected, That the Home Trade signifies nothing to the enriching a Nation, and that the increase of Wealth comes out of Forreign Trade.
I answer, That what is commonly understood by Wealth, viz. Plenty, Bravery, Gallantry, &c. cannot be maintained without Forreign Trade. Nor in truth, can Forreign Trade subsist without the Home Trade, both being connected together.
I have toucht upon these matters concerning Trade, and Riches in general, because I conceive a true Notion of them will correct many common Errors, and more especially conduce to the Proposition I chiefly aim to prove; which is, that Gold and Silver, and, out of them, Money, are nothing but the Weights and Measures, by which Traffick is more conveniently carried on than could be done without them: and also a proper Fund for a surplusage of Stock to be deposited in.
In confirmation of this, we may take Notice, That Nations which are very poor, have scarce any Money, and in the beginnings of Trade have often made use of something else; as Sueden hath used Copper, and the Plantations, Sugar and Tobacco, but not without great Inconveniences; and still as Wealth hath increas’d, Gold and Silver hath been introduc’d, and drove out the others, as now almost in the Plantations it hath done.
It is not necessary absolutely to have a Mint for the making Money plenty, tho’ it be very expedient; and a just benefit is lost by the want of it, where there is none; for it hath been observed, that where no Mints were Trade hath not wanted a full supply of Money; because if it be wanted, the Coyn of other Princes will become current, as in Ireland, and the Plantations; so also in Turky, where the Money of the Country is so minute, that it is inconvenient for great Payments; and therefore the Turkish Dominions are supplied by almost all the Coyns of Christendom, the same being current there.
But a Country which useth Forreign Coyns, hath great disadvantage from it; because they pay strangers for what, had they a Mint of their own, they might make themselves. For Coyned Money, as was said, is more worth than Uncoyned Silver of the same weight and allay; that is, you may buy more Uncoyned Silver, of the same fineness with the Money, than the Money weighs; which advantage the Stranger hath for the Coynage.
If it be said, That the contrary sometimes happens, and coyned Money shall be current for less than Bullion shall sell for. I answer, that whereever this happens, the Coyned Money being undervalued, shall be melted down into Bullion, for the immediate Gain that is had from it.
Thus it appears, that if you have no Mint whereby to increase your Money, yet if you are a rich People, and have Trade, you cannot want Specifick Coyn, to serve your occasions in dealing.
The next thing to be shewed is, That if your Trade pours in never so much Money upon you, you have no more advantage by the being of it Money, then you should have were it in Logs, or Blocks; save only that Money is much better for Transportation than Logs are.
For when Money grows up to a greater quantity than Commerce requires, it comes to be of no greater value than uncoyned Silver, and will occasionally be melted down again.
Then let not the care of Specifick Money torment us so much; for a People that are rich cannot want it, and if they make none, they will be supplied with the Coyn of other Nations; and if never so much be brought from abroad, or never so much coyned at home, all that is more than what the Commerce of the Nation requires, is but Bullion, and will be treated as such; and coyned Money, like wrought Plate at second hand, shall sell but for the Intrinsick.
I call to witness the vast Sums that have been coyned in England, since the free Coynage was set up; What is become of it all? no body believes it to be in the Nation, and it cannot well be all transported, the Penalties for so doing being so great. The case is plain, it not being exported, as I verily believe little of it is, the Melting-Pot devours all.
The rather, because that Practice is so easie, profitable, and safe from all possibility of being detected, as every one knows it is. And I know no intelligent Man who doubts, but the New Money goes this way.
Silver and Gold, like other Commodities, have their ebbings and flowings: Upon the arrival of Quantities from Spain, the Mint commonly gives the best price; that is, coyned Silver, for uncoyned Silver, weight for weight. Wherefore is it carried into the Tower, and coyned? not long after there will come a demand for Bullion, to be Exported again: If there is none, but all happens to be in Coyn, What then? Melt it down again; there’s no loss in it, for the Coyning cost the Owners nothing.
Thus the Nation hath been abused, and made to pay for the twisting of straw, for Asses to eat. If the Merchant were made to pay the price of the Coynage, he would not have sent his Silver to the Tower without Consideration; and coyned Money would always keep a value above uncoyned Silver: which is now so far from being the case, that many times it is considerably under, and generally the King of Spain’s Coyn here is is worth One penny per Ounce more than our New Money.
This Nation, for many Years last past, hath groaned, and still groans under the abuse of clipt Money, which with respect to their Wisdom, is a great mistake; and the Irish whom we ridicule so much, when in Peace, would not be so gulled, but weighed their (Pieces of Eight) Cobbs, as they call them, Piece by Piece; this Errour springs from the same Source with the rest, and needs no other Cure then will soon result from Non-currency. Whereof I shall set down my thoughts.
There is great fear, that if clipt Money be not taken, there will be no Money at all. I am certain, that so long as clipt Money is taken, there will be little other: And is it not strange, that scarce any Nation, or People in the whole World, take diminisht Money by Tale, but the English?
What is the reason that a New Half-crown-piece, if it hath the least snip taken from the edge, will not pass; whereas an Old Half-crown clipt to the very quick, and not intrinsically worth Eighteen Pence, shall be currant?
I know no reason, why a Man should take the one, more than the other; I am sure, that if New Money should pass clipt, there would soon be enough served so. And I do not in the least doubt, unless the currency of clipt Money be stopt, it will not be very long before every individual piece of the Old Coynes be clipt.
And if this be not remedied, for fear of the Evil now, how will it be born hereafter, when it will be worse? surely at length it will become insupportable, and remedy itself as Groats have done; but let them look out, in whose time it shall happen; we are all shoving the Evil-Day as far off as may be, but it will certainly come at last.
I do not think the great Evil is so hard to be remedied, nor so chargeable as some have judged; but if rightly managed, it may be done with no intolerable loss, some there will be, and considerable; but when I reflect where it will fall, I cannot think it grievous.
The general Opinion is, That it cannot be done otherwise, then by calling in of all the Old Money, and changing of it, for doing which the whole Nation must contribute by a general Tax; but I do not approve of this way, for several Reasons.
For it will be a matter of great trouble, and will require many hands to execute, who will expect, and deserve good pay; which will add to the Evil, and increase the Charge of the Work; and the Trust of it is also very great, and may be vastly abused.
Now before I give any Opinion for the doing this thing, let some estimate be made of the loss, wherein I will not undertake to compute the Total, but only how the same may fall out in One Hundred Pound: There may be found in it Ten Pound of good New Money, then rests Ninety Pound; and of that I will suppose half to be clipt Money, and half good; so there will be but Five and Forty, in One Hundred Pounds, whereupon there will be any loss; and that will not surely be above a Third part: so I allow 15l. per Cent. for the loss by clipt Money, which is with the most, and in such Computes, it is safest to err on that side.
Now in case it should be thought fit, that the King should in all the Receipts of the Publick Revenue, forbid the taking of clipt Coyn, unless the Subject were content to pay it by weight at 5s. 2d. per Ounce, every Piece being cut in Two, (which must be especially and effectually secured to be done) I grant it would be a great surprize, but no great cause of Complaint when nothing is required, but that the Publick Revenue may be paid in lawful English Money.
And those who are to make Payments, must either find good Money, or clip in two their cropt Money, and part with it on such terms; by this Example it would like wise be found, that in a short time, all Men would refuse clipt Money in common Payment.
Now let us consider, where the loss would light, which I have estimated to be about 15 per Cent.
We are apt to make Over estimates of the Quantities of current Money; for we see it often, and know it not again; and are not willing to consider how very a little time it stays in a place; and altho’ every one desires to have it, yet none, or very few care for keeping it, but they are forthwith contriving to dispose it; knowing that from all the Money that lies dead, no benefit is to be expected, but it is a certain loss.
The Merchant and Gentleman keep their Money for the most part, with Goldsmiths, and Scriveners; and they, instead of having Ten Thousand Pounds in Cash by them, as their Accounts shew they should have, of other Mens ready Money, to be paid at sight, have seldom One Thousand in Specie; but depend upon a course of Trade, whereby Money comes in as fast as it is taken out: Wherefore I conclude, that the Specifick Money of this Nation is far less than the common Opinion makes.
Now suppose all the loss by clipt Money should happen and fall where the Cash is, it would be severe in very few Places. It could do no great harm to Hoards of Money; because those who intend to keep Money, will be sure to lay up that which is good. It would not signifie much to the poor Man, for he many times hath none; and for the most part, if he hath any, it is very little, seldome Five Shillings at a time. The Farmer is supposed to pay his Landlord, as fast as he gets Money; so it is not likely he should be catcht with much: Wherefore it will light chiefly upon Trading Men, who may sometimes be found with Hundreds by them; and frequently not with many Pounds. Those who happen to have such great Cashes at such time would sustain loss.
In short, clipt Money is an Evil, that the longer it is born with, the harder will the Cure be. And if the Loss therein be lain on the Publick, (as the Common Project is) the Inconveniences are (as hath been shewed) very great; but in the other way of Cure it is not such a terrible Grievance, as most Men have imagined it would be.
So to conclude, when these Reasons, which have been hastily and confusedly set down, are duly considered, I doubt not but we shall joyn in one uniform Sentiment: That Laws to hamper Trade, whether Forreign, or Domestick, relating to Money, or other Merchandizes, are not Ingredients to make a People Rich, and abounding in Money, and Stock. But if Peace be procured, easie Justice maintained, the Navigation not clogg’d, the Industrious encouraged, by indulging them in the participation of Honours, and Imployments in the Government, according to their Wealth and Characters, the Stock of the Nation will increase, and consequently Gold and Silver abound, Interest be easie, and Money cannot be wanting.
WHEN a Nation is grown rich, Gold, Silver, Jewels, and every thing useful, or desirable, (as I have already said) will be plentiful; and the Fruits of the Earth will purchase more of them, than before, when People were poorer: As a fat Oxe in former Ages, was not sold for more Shillings, than now Pounds. The like takes places in Labourers’ Wages, and every thing whatever; which confirms the Universal Maxim I have built upon, viz. That Plenty of any thing makes it cheap.
Therefore Gold and Silver being now plentiful, a Man hath much more of it for his labour, for his Corn, for his Cattle, &c. then could be had Five Hundred Years ago, when, as must be owned, there was not near so much by many parts as now.
Notwithstanding this, I find many, who seem willing to allow, that this Nation at present abounds with Gold and Silver, in Plate and Bullion; but are yet of Opinion, That coyned Money is wanted to carry on the Trade, and that were there more Specifick Money, Trade would increase, and we should have better Markets for every thing.
That this is a great Error, I think the foregoing Papers make out: but to clear it a little farther, let it be considered, that Money is a Manufacture of Bullion wrought in the Mint. Now if the Materials are ready, and the Workmen also, ’tis absurd to say, the Manufacture is wanted.
For instance: Have you Corn, and do you want Meal? Carry the Corn to the Mill, and grind it. Yes; but I want Meal, because others will not carry their Corn; and I have none: say you so; then buy Corn of them, and carry it to the Mill your self. This is exactly the Case of Money. A very rich Man hath much Plate, for Honour and Show; whereupon a poorer Man thinks, if it were coyned into Money, the Publick, and his self among the rest, would be the better for it; but he is utterly mistaken; unless at the same time you oblige the rich Man to squander his new coyn’d Money away.
For if he lays it up, I am sure the matter is not mended: if he commutes it for Diamonds, Pearl, &c. the Case is still the same; it is but changed from one hand to another: and it may be the Money is dispatcht to the Indies to pay for those Jewels: then if he buys Land, it is no more than changing the hand; and regarding all Persons, except the Dealers only, the Case is still the same. Money will always have an Owner, and never goeth a Beggar for Entertainment, but must be purchast for valuable consideration in solido.
If the use of Plate were prohibited, then it were a sumptuary Law, and, as such, would be a vast hindrance to the Riches and Trade of the Nation: for now seeing every Man hath Plate in his House, the Nation is possest of a solid Fund, consisting in those Mettals, which all the World desire, and would willingly draw from us; and this in far greater measure than would be, if Men were not allowed that liberty. For the poor Tradesman, out of an ambition to have a Piece of Plate upon his Cupboard, works harder to purchase it, than he would do if that humour were restrain’d, as I have said elsewhere.
There is required for carrying on the Trade of the Nation, a determinate Sum of Specifick Money, which varies, and is sometimes more, sometimes less, as the Circumstances we are in require. War time calls for more Money than time of Peace, because every one desires to keep some by him, to use upon Emergencies; not thinking it prudent to rely upon Moneys currant in dealing, as they do in times of Peace, when Payments are more certain.
This ebbing and flowing of Money, supplies and accommodates itself, without any aid of Politicians. For when Money grows scarce, and begins to be hoarded, then forthwith the Mint works, till the occasion be filled up again. And on the other side, when Peace brings out the Hoards, and Money abounds, the Mint not only ceaseth, but the overplus of Money will be presently melted down, either to supply the Home Trade, or for Transportation.
Thus the Buckets work alternately, when Money is scarce, Bullion is coyn’d; when Bullion is scarce, Money is melted. I do not allow that both should be scarce at one and the same time; for that is a state of Poverty, and will not be, till we are exhausted, which is besides my subject.
Some have fancied, that if by a Law the Ounce of Silver were restrained to 5s. value, in all dealings, and at the Tower the same were coyned into 5s. 4d. or 5s. 6d. per Ounce, all the Plate in England would soon be coyned. The answer to this, in short, is: That the Principle they build upon is impossible. How can any Law hinder me from giving another Man what I please for his Goods? The Law may be evaded a thousand ways. As be it so: I must not give, nor he receive above 5s. per Ounce for Silver; I may pay him 5s. and present him with 4d. or 6d. more; I may give him Goods in barter, at such, or greater profit; and so by other contrivances, ad Infinitum.
But put case it took effect, and by that means all the Silver in England were coyned into Money; What then? would any one spend more in Cloaths, Equipages, House-keeping, &c. than is done? I believe not; but rather the contrary: For the Gentry and Commonalty being nipt in their delight of seeing Plate, &c. in their Houses, would in all probability be dampt in all other Expences: Wherefore if this could be done, as I affirm it cannot, yet instead of procuring the desired effect, it would bring on all the Mischiefs of a sumptuary Law.
Whenever the Money is made lighter, or baser in allay, (which is the same thing) the effect is, that immediately the price of Bullion answers. So that in reality you change the Name, but not the thing: and whatever the difference is, the Tenant and Debtor hath it in his favour; for Rent and Debts will be paid less, by just so much as the intrinsick value is less, then what was to be paid before.
For example: One who before received for Rent or Debt, 3l. 2s. could with it buy twelve Ounces, or a Pound of Sterling Silver; but if the Crown-piece be worse in value than now it is, by 3d. I do aver, you shall not be able to buy a Pound of such Silver under 3l. 5s. but either directly or indirectly it shall cost so much.
But then it is said, we will buy an Ounce for 5s. because ’tis the Price set by the Parliament, and no body shall dare to sell for more. I answer, If they cannot sell it for more, they may coyn it; And then what Fool will sell an Ounce of Silver for 5s. when he may coyn it into 5s. 5d.?
Thus we may labour to hedge in the Cuckow, but in vain; for no People ever yet grew rich by Policies; but it is Peace, Industry, and Freedom that brings Trade and Wealth, and nothing else.