Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. XXIII. - The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland
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CHAP. XXIII. - Pieter de la Court, The True Interest and Political Maxims, of the Republic of Holland 
The True Interest and Political Maxims of the Republic of Holland (London: John Campbell, Esq, 1746).
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That in levying Convoy-money, we in Holland deviate in many particulars from these maxims, and in many things have observed them well.
First, it hath been very detrimental to Holland, that they there prohibited the exportation of gold and silver.FIRST it is well worthy observation, that the inhabitants of Holland can trade in no countries but by carrying goods thither, which having sold, and turned into money, they convert it into other goods which they find there, or failing that, return their money into Holland by exchange: but if such foreign lands have little or no occasion for our goods, but afford rich commodities, then is it evident that we cannot trade with them to any purpose, unless we carry thither gold and silver in coin, or bullion. And since by consequence every one knows that Norway, the East-Country, Smyrna, Persia, India, China, &c. do afford us infinitely more merchandize than they take of us, we cannot trade with them but by gold and silver; and that moreover, these provinces, at least that of Holland, cannot subsist without the said traffick. Therefore we cannot enough wonder at the ignorance, or ill conduct of the states-general, who by many repeated placaets in the years 1606, 1610, 1611, 1612, 1613, 1621, &c. prohibited the exportation of coined or uncoined gold and silver. And tho’ it may be said, that the said placaets being well known to be detrimental, had no long duration, yet it is certain that the scouts, and advocat fiscal, did for a long time, nay and sometimes still make use of them to molest and disquiet our trading inhabitants.
But the not charging of fisheries, and the Eastern trade, is reasonably well ordered.But as to what concerns the freedom and advantages of fishery, and the Eastland trade, as also other unwrought goods imported, they are indifferently well ordered, seeing they pay little or nothing of duty, either on import or export, except that the herring-busses to secure themselves against sea-robbers, or pyrates, do yearly at their own charge, set out seven ships of war:See the rates of the convoy-money. which, for a fishery of so much importance to the country, is too heavy a burden, or at least a very great charge. But foreign salt imported or exported, is not at all charged. Fish of our own taking, herring, wood, ashes, pitch, tar, hemp, pay nothing inward, and but very little outward.But not the corn-trade. But corn, against all reason, pays duty inward, some more, and some less, and likewise when exported is too much charged.
If we consider how much must necessarily be gained in this country, by owners of ships, masters, mariners, corn-porters, hirers out of granaries to stow the same, and corn-shifters, before it is sent by our merchants into other countries:And how much Holland is concerned in having the staple of corn. we ought in all respects to ease, and be more favourable to our stores or staple of corn, merchandize, and fishery, and to keep the staple of corn within our country; that so during bad seasons, and the scarcity thereof in other nations, we may have it always cheaper with us than in any other countries; and besides that, we might enjoy many other publick advantages, which out of so redundant a treasure as is the store and staple of corn, might in very many cases and accidents be improved by wise magistrates. Whereas on the contrary, if by an imprudent burdening of that commodity we lose that staple; this indigent and populous country would in many cases, as bad harvests, and cross accidents of this world, fall into many extraordinary and unforeseen inconveniencies. But manufactures are too much charged.But above all it is to be lamented, that our own manufactures are so unreasonably charged with convoy-money, or customs, and much more with the duty of clearing the seas; but they are chiefly opprest by the imposition laid on the consumption; so that the interest of the manufactures and mechanick works is very ill look’d after. For tho’ undrest wool pays but 1 per Cent. of its worth at importation, yet certain it is that it pays too little at exportation. Flax, silk, and yarn are also too much charged upon importation, and no more (against all reason) at exportation.See the rates of convoy-money. The treaty of the English court in Holland, and L. V. Aitzma’s Hist of the year 1656. pag. 635. And as to weaving, or to speak plainer, all woven goods; it is wonderful why we should charge woven goods, whether imported or exported by sea, or rivers, so high as we foolishly do, or (in respect of their great value) much more than foreign commodities; yea (which is a shameful thing) the undrest English cloths are at importation not charged at all, and the English traders enjoy every way more freedom, and exemption from taxes in Holland, than even our own inhabitants.
As also our husbandmen.The interest of our husbandmen, or boors, is also much neglected; for what solid reason can be given, that the Holland butter exported is double as much charged as that of Friesland? Likewise, that all foreign butter and cheese may be imported duty free; but all foreign cheese exported, is charged with no more than that of Holland.
But especially we may wonder, that the rulers of Holland could ever find it good to charge all merchandize, without distinction, at importation with 1 per Cent. and at exportation with 2 per Cent. of its value: as if it were not enough to subject the merchant by the rated convoy-money, to the charges, pains, loss of time, and seizures, which must and will lawfully oftimes happen, and sometimes also to the unjust vexation and trouble of many,And especially the interest of merchants has been much neglected, by paying one and two per Cent. upon goods imported and exported. and delays of the custom-house officers, searchers, collectors, and fiscal, whereby many times fit opportunities of sending away or selling of their goods are lost: so that by the said one and two per Cent. of the value, all merchandize, even those which ought by all means to be favoured, are so heavily charged, as in the foregoing chapter is shew’d. And besides, power is given to the said fiscal and head customer or collector, to seize all goods for their own use, paying one sixth part more than the importer values them: which is a mischievous thing to the merchant;Which appears plainest by raw silk, and grogram yarn for in far more remote countries (for example, at Smyrna, or Messina, grogram yarn or silk) goods being bartered or bought, and not knowing whether those goods may be damaged in the voyage or not, and much less whether the same are so bartered or bought in, as to yield profit or loss, yet are they bound blindly to rate these goods. Whereas on the other side, the fiscal or collector may take or leave them at their pleasure. Besides, this one and two per Cent. is for the merchant so great a charge, and deprives them of so much profit, that by this alone very many goods that come from abroad, and will not sell off here, pass by our country, and are carried to other ports.
The truth is, when we consider all these heavy burdens upon the merchandize and manufactures of Holland; and then on the other hand, that we can in no wise subsist long without them, I cannot sufficiently wonder at that folly; for it is too nice and ticklish a case to lay any restraints upon the mouth, through which all nourishment must pass into the body. We ought to suspect and be jealous of all things which have any tendency, either to bereave or straiten us of life; especially seeing we can fail but once, and those that guess at things are apt to mistake. Perhaps it may be said, that necessity justifies all things, and that the wars brought a fear upon us of losing both country and trade at once.Which may be excused because necessity breaks law. Indeed he that is straitened by water or fire, will leap through the fire, or catch hold of a naked sword to preserve his life: but they must be fools when there is no such necessity, that will suffer their bodies to be harm’d by sword or fire.See Aitzma’s treaty of peace. That late puissant neighbouring enemy, in respect of whom merchandize was so heavily charged, is (God be praised for his mercy) so weakned by making war against us, that for eighteen years together he was necessitated to offer us a peace that was shameful for him, and glorious for us, before we would grant it him.But it is imprudent to continue that tax forclearing the seas of enemies when there is no need.
And these provinces, that may be accounted to have been formerly unarmed, in respect of their present condition, as Groeningen, Friesland, Overyssel, Guelderland, &c. have always been able to defend themselves against foreign force, and were very hardly by dissension among themselves brought to stoop to that mighty emperor Charles the fifth. So that now there is no shadow of reason to believe that being provided for the most part by the money of Holland with fortification, cannon, arms, and ammunition, they are not now able in a profound peace to defend themselves with their own force against the attempts of a weaker neighbour.And we in perfect peace by land. On the other hand it is true, that some of them being sensible of their own power, are not concern’d for the uneasiness of the Hollanders by sea, nor will they contribute a penny to ease them, but contrary to the terms of the union of Utrecht, as if that union were only made against the king of Spain’s attempts by land, pretending that all wars and robberies by sea, ought and may be sufficiently maintained, prevented and defended by convoymoney, and consequently sufficiently provided for by the merchants of Holland. Whereas nevertheless the said Holland merchants, besides their particular burdens as men and inhabitants, bear all impositions, whereby Holland is not only defended by land against all men, but likewise all the other united inland provinces: which in truth hath continued to this day, at the charge of much more contribution for Holland, and much less for the other provinces, than by virtue of the union of Utrecht they are obliged to.Art. 5. 6. So that it is high time for Holland to mind her own advantage, and discharge her self of all needless expences for these provinces, and bestow them on her own defence, whereof she hath every way, and evermore occasion by land, and especially by sea.That the sea must drip or maintain it self, is a very detrimental maxim for Holland. For if in truth that maxim used by the other provinces be true, That the sea must maintain it self, and that consequently all means to clear the seas, and to regain the merchants loss after such plunderings by foreigners, and damage sustained by sea, must cause the rates of convoy-money to be rais’d higher in proportion to that necessity; all which must be fetch’d from the merchant.Because the Turk will ever continue his depredations at Sea. If so, I say, Holland must necessarily decay and fall to ruin, considering that by the constitution of the trade at sea, and the many countries about us, not only in the Sound and Channel, but also by the fundamental government of Tunis, Tripoli, and Algier, they must be for ever pirated on by sea. For by this rule it would follow, that Holland should always bear its own burdens, and those of the other provinces too by sea, and so in a time of peace, as well as war, should also bear most of the charge by land:Voyage to the Levant, par le Sir des Haye. and that the others on their parts should wallow in idleness and gluttony with the wealth of Holland.