Conclusion Of The Mercantile System

Though the encouragement of exportation, and the discouragement of

importation, are the two great engines by which the mercantile system

proposes to enrich every country, yet, with regard to some particular

commodities, it seems to follow an opposite plan: to discourage

exportation, and to encourage importation. Its ultimate object,

however, it pretends, is always the same, to enrich the country by an

advantageous bala
ce of trade. It discourages the exportation of the

materials of manufacture, and of the instruments of trade, in order to

give our own workmen an advantage, and to enable them to undersell those

of other nations in all foreign markets; and by restraining, in this

manner, the exportation of a few commodities, of no great price, it

proposes to occasion a much greater and more valuable exportation of

others. It encourages the importation of the materials of manufacture,

in order that our own people may be enabled to work them up more

cheaply, and thereby prevent a greater and more valuable importation of

the manufactured commodities. I do not observe, at least in our statute

book, any encouragement given to the importation of the instruments of

trade. When manufactures have advanced to a certain pitch of greatness,

the fabrication of the instruments of trade becomes itself the object

of a great number of very important manufactures. To give any particular

encouragement to the importation of such instruments, would interfere

too much with the interest of those manufactures. Such importation,

therefore, instead of being encouraged, has frequently been prohibited.

Thus the importation of wool cards, except from Ireland, or when brought

in as wreck or prize goods, was prohibited by the 3rd of Edward IV.;

which prohibition was renewed by the 39th of Elizabeth, and has been

continued and rendered perpetual by subsequent laws.

The importation of the materials of manufacture has sometimes been

encouraged by an exemption from the duties to which other goods are

subject, and sometimes by bounties.

The importation of sheep's wool from several different countries, of

cotton wool from all countries, of undressed flax, of the greater part

of dyeing drugs, of the greater part of undressed hides from Ireland, or

the British colonies, of seal skins from the British Greenland fishery,

of pig and bar iron from the British colonies, as well as of several

other materials of manufacture, has been encouraged by an exemption

from all duties, if properly entered at the custom-house. The private

interest of our merchants and manufacturers may, perhaps, have extorted

from the legislature these exemptions, as well as the greater part of

our other commercial regulations. They are, however, perfectly just and

reasonable; and if, consistently with the necessities of the state, they

could be extended to all the other materials of manufacture, the public

would certainly be a gainer.

The avidity of our great manufacturers, however, has in some cases

extended these exemptions a good deal beyond what can justly be

considered as the rude materials of their work. By the 24th Geo. II.

chap. 46, a small duty of only 1d. the pound was imposed upon the

importation of foreign brown linen yarn, instead of much higher duties,

to which it had been subjected before, viz. of 6d. the pound upon sail

yarn, of 1s. the pound upon all French and Dutch yarn, and of £2:13:4

upon the hundred weight of all spruce or Muscovia yarn. But our

manufacturers were not long satisfied with this reduction: by the 29th

of the same king, chap. 15, the same law which gave a bounty upon the

exportation of British and Irish linen, of which the price did not

exceed 18d. the yard, even this small duty upon the importation of brown

linen yarn was taken away. In the different operations, however, which

are necessary for the preparation of linen yarn, a good deal more

industry is employed, than in the subsequent operation of preparing

linen cloth from linen yarn. To say nothing of the industry of the

flax-growers and flaxdressers, three or four spinners at least are

necessary in order to keep one weaver in constant employment; and more

than four-fifths of the whole quantity of labour necessary for the

preparation of linen cloth, is employed in that of linen yarn; but

our spinners are poor people; women commonly scattered about in all

different parts of the country, without support or protection. It is

not by the sale of their work, but by that of the complete work of the

weavers, that our great master manufacturers make their profits. As it

is their interest to sell the complete manufacture as dear, so it is

to buy the materials as cheap as possible. By extorting from the

legislature bounties upon the exportation of their own linen,

high duties upon the importation of all foreign linen, and a total

prohibition of the home consumption of some sorts of French linen, they

endeavour to sell their own goods as dear as possible. By encouraging

the importation of foreign linen yarn, and thereby bringing it into

competition with that which is made by our own people, they endeavour

to buy the work of the poor spinners as cheap as possible. They are as

intent to keep down the wages of their own weavers, as the earnings of

the poor spinners; and it is by no means for the benefit of the workmen

that they endeavour either to raise the price of the complete work, or

to lower that of the rude materials. It is the industry which is carried

on for the benefit of the rich and the powerful, that is principally

encouraged by our mercantile system. That which is carried on for the

benefit of the poor and the indigent is too often either neglected or


Both the bounty upon the exportation of linen, and the exemption from

the duty upon the importation of foreign yarn, which were granted only

for fifteen years, but continued by two different prolongations, expire

with the end of the session of parliament which shall immediately follow

the 24th of June 1786.

The encouragement given to the importation of the materials of

manufacture by bounties, has been principally confined to such as were

imported from our American plantations.

The first bounties of this kind were those granted about the beginning

of the present century, upon the importation of naval stores from

America. Under this denomination were comprehended timber fit for masts,

yards, and bowsprits; hemp, tar, pitch, and turpentine. The bounty,

however, of £1 the ton upon masting-timber, and that of £6 the ton upon

hemp, were extended to such as should be imported into England from

Scotland. Both these bounties continued, without any variation, at the

same rate, till they were severally allowed to expire; that upon hemp on

the 1st of January 1741, and that upon masting-timber at the end of the

session of parliament immediately following the 24th June 1781.

The bounties upon the importation of tar, pitch, and turpentine,

underwent, during their continuance, several alterations. Originally,

that upon tar was £4 the ton; that upon pitch the same; and that upon

turpentine £3 the ton. The bounty of £4 the ton upon tar was afterwards

confined to such as had been prepared in a particular manner; that upon

other good, clean, and merchantable tar was reduced to £2:4s. the

ton. The bounty upon pitch was likewise reduced to £1, and that upon

turpentine to £1:10s. the ton.

The second bounty upon the importation of any of the materials of

manufacture, according to the order of time, was that granted by the

21st Geo. II. chap.30, upon the importation of indigo from the British

plantations. When the plantation indigo was worth three-fourths of the

price of the best French indigo, it was, by this act, entitled to a

bounty of 6d. the pound. This bounty, which, like most others, was

granted only for a limited time, was continued by several prolongations,

but was reduced to 4d. the pound. It was allowed to expire with the end

of the session of parliament which followed the 25th March 1781.

The third bounty of this kind was that granted (much about the time that

we were beginning sometimes to court, and sometimes to quarrel with our

American colonies), by the 4th. Geo. III. chap. 26, upon the importation

of hemp, or undressed flax, from the British plantations. This bounty

was granted for twenty-one years, from the 24th June 1764 to the 24th

June 1785. For the first seven years, it was to be at the rate of £8 the

ton; for the second at £6; and for the third at £4. It was not extended

to Scotland, of which the climate (although hemp is sometimes raised

there in small quantities, and of an inferior quality) is not very fit

for that produce. Such a bounty upon the importation of Scotch flax in

England would have been too great a discouragement to the native produce

of the southern part of the united kingdom.

The fourth bounty of this kind was that granted by the 5th Geo. III.

chap. 45, upon the importation of wood from America. It was granted for

nine years from the 1st January 1766 to the 1st January 1775. During the

first three years, it was to be for every hundred-and-twenty good deals,

at the rate of £1, and for every load containing fifty cubic feet of

other square timber, at the rate of 12s. For the second three years, it

was for deals, to be at the rate of 15s., and for other squared timber

at the rate of 8s.; and for the third three years, it was for deals, to

be at the rate of 10s.; and for every other squared timber at the rate

of 5s.

The fifth bounty of this kind was that granted by the 9th Geo. III.

chap. 38, upon the importation of raw silk from the British plantations.

It was granted for twenty-one years, from the 1st January 1770, to the

1st January 1791. For the first seven years, it was to be at the rate of

£25 for every hundred pounds value; for the second, at £20; and for the

third, at £15. The management of the silk-worm, and the preparation

of silk, requires so much hand-labour, and labour is so very dear in

America, that even this great bounty, I have been informed, was not

likely to produce any considerable effect.

The sixth Bounty of this kind was that granted by 11th Geo. III. chap.

50, for the importation of pipe, hogshead, and barrelstaves and leading

from the British plantations. It was granted for nine years, from 1st

January 1772 to the 1st January 1781. For the first three years, it was,

for a certain quantity of each, to be at the rate of £6; for the second

three years at £4; and for the third three years at £2.

The seventh and last bounty of this kind was that granted by the 19th

Geo. III chap. 37, upon the importation of hemp from Ireland. It was

granted in the same manner as that for the importation of hemp and

undressed flax from America, for twenty-one years, from the 24th June

1779 to the 24th June 1800. The term is divided likewise into three

periods, of seven years each; and in each of those periods, the rate

of the Irish bounty is the same with that of the American. It does

not, however, like the American bounty, extend to the importation of

undressed flax. It would have been too great a discouragement to the

cultivation of that plant in Great Britain. When this last bounty was

granted, the British and Irish legislatures were not in much better

humour with one another, than the British and American had been before.

But this boon to Ireland, it is to be hoped, has been granted under more

fortunate auspices than all those to America. The same commodities, upon

which we thus gave bounties, when imported from America, were subjected

to considerable duties when imported from any other country. The

interest of our American colonies was regarded as the same with that of

the mother country. Their wealth was considered as our wealth. Whatever

money was sent out to them, it was said, came all back to us by the

balance of trade, and we could never become a farthing the poorer by

any expense which we could lay out upon them. They were our own in every

respect, and it was an expense laid out upon the improvement of our own

property, and for the profitable employment of our own people. It is

unnecessary, I apprehend, at present to say anything further, in

order to expose the folly of a system which fatal experience has now

sufficiently exposed. Had our American colonies really been a part of

Great Britain, those bounties might have been considered as bounties

upon production, and would still have been liable to all the objections

to which such bounties are liable, but to no other.

The exportation of the materials of manufacture is sometimes discouraged

by absolute prohibitions, and sometimes by high duties.

Our woollen manufacturers have been more successful than any other class

of workmen, in persuading the legislature that the prosperity of the

nation depended upon the success and extension of their particular

business. They have not only obtained a monopoly against the consumers,

by an absolute prohibition of importing woollen cloths from any foreign

country; but they have likewise obtained another monopoly against the

sheep farmers and growers of wool, by a similar prohibition of the

exportation of live sheep and wool. The severity of many of the laws

which have been enacted for the security of the revenue is very

justly complained of, as imposing heavy penalties upon actions which,

antecedent to the statutes that declared them to be crimes, had always

been understood to be innocent. But the cruellest of our revenue laws,

I will venture to affirm, are mild and gentle, in comparison to some of

those which the clamour of our merchants and manufacturers has extorted

from the legislature, for the support of their own absurd and oppressive

monopolies. Like the laws of Draco, these laws may be said to be all

written in blood.

By the 8th of Elizabeth, chap. 3, the exporter of sheep, lambs, or rams,

was for the first offence, to forfeit all his goods for ever, to suffer

a year's imprisonment, and then to have his left hand cut off in a

market town, upon a market day, to be there nailed up; and for the

second offence, to be adjudged a felon, and to suffer death accordingly.

To prevent the breed of our sheep from being propagated in foreign

countries, seems to have been the object of this law. By the 13th and

14th of Charles II. chap. 18, the exportation of wool was made felony,

and the exporter subjected to the same penalties and forfeitures as a


For the honour of the national humanity, it is to be hoped that neither

of these statutes was ever executed. The first of them, however, so far

as I know, has never been directly repealed, and serjeant Hawkins seems

to consider it as still in force. It may, however, perhaps be considered

as virtually repealed by the 12th of Charles II. chap. 32, sect. 3,

which, without expressly taking away the penalties imposed by former

statutes, imposes a new penalty, viz. that of 20s. for every sheep

exported, or attempted to be exported, together with the forfeiture of

the sheep, and of the owner's share of the sheep. The second of them was

expressly repealed by the 7th and 8th of William III. chap. 28, sect. 4,

by which it is declared that "Whereas the statute of the 13th and 14th

of king Charles II. made against the exportation of wool, among other

things in the said act mentioned, doth enact the same to be deemed

felony, by the severity of which penalty the prosecution of offenders

hath not been so effectually put in execution; be it therefore enacted,

by the authority aforesaid, that so much of the said act, which relates

to the making the said offence felony, be repealed and made void."

The penalties, however, which are either imposed by this milder statute,

or which, though imposed by former statutes, are not repealed by this

one, are still sufficiently severe. Besides the forfeiture of the goods,

the exporter incurs the penalty of 3s. for every pound weight of wool,

either exported or attempted to be exported, that is, about four or

five times the value. Any merchant, or other person convicted of this

offence, is disabled from requiring any debt or account belonging to

him from any factor or other person. Let his fortune be what it will,

whether he is or is not able to pay those heavy penalties, the law means

to ruin him completely. But, as the morals of the great body of the

people are not yet so corrupt as those of the contrivers of this

statute, I have not heard that any advantage has ever been taken of this

clause. If the person convicted of this offence is not able to pay the

penalties within three months after judgment, he is to be transported

for seven years; and if he returns before the expiration of that term,

he is liable to the pains of felony, without benefit of clergy. The

owner of the ship, knowing this offence, forfeits all his interest in

the ship and furniture. The master and mariners, knowing this

offence, forfeit all their goods and chattels, and suffer three months

imprisonment. By a subsequent statute, the master suffers six months


In order to prevent exportation, the whole inland commerce of wool is

laid under very burdensome and oppressive restrictions. It cannot be

packed in any box, barrel, cask, case, chest, or any other package, but

only in packs of leather or pack-cloth, on which must be marked on the

outside the words WOOL or YARN, in large letters, not less than three

inches long, on pain of forfeiting the same and the package, and 8s.

for every pound weight, to be paid by the owner or packer. It cannot be

loaden on any horse or cart, or carried by land within five miles of the

coast, but between sun-rising, and sun-setting, on pain of forfeiting

the same, the horses and carriages. The hundred next adjoining to the

sea coast, out of, or through which the wool is carried or exported,

forfeits £20, if the wool is under the value of £10; and if of greater

value, then treble that value, together with treble costs, to be

sued for within the year. The execution to be against any two of the

inhabitants, whom the sessions must reimburse, by an assessment on

the other inhabitants, as in the cases of robbery. And if any person

compounds with the hundred for less than this penalty, he is to be

imprisoned for five years; and any other person may prosecute. These

regulations take place through the whole kingdom.

But in the particular counties of Kent and Sussex, the restrictions are

still more troublesome. Every owner of wool within ten miles of the sea

coast must give an account in writing, three days after shearing, to the

next officer of the customs, of the number of his fleeces, and of the

places where they are lodged. And before he removes any part of them, he

must give the like notice of the number and weight of the fleeces, and

of the name and abode of the person to whom they are sold, and of the

place to which it is intended they should be carried. No person within

fifteen miles of the sea, in the said counties, can buy any wool, before

he enters into bond to the king, that no part of the wool which he shall

so buy shall be sold by him to any other person within fifteen miles of

the sea. If any wool is found carrying towards the sea side in the said

counties, unless it has been entered and security given as aforesaid, it

is forfeited, and the offender also forfeits 3s. for every pound weight,

if any person lay any wool, not entered as aforesaid, within fifteen

miles of the sea, it must be seized and forfeited; and if, after such

seizure, any person shall claim the same, he must give security to the

exchequer, that if he is cast upon trial he shall pay treble costs,

besides all other penalties.

When such restrictions are imposed upon the inland trade, the coasting

trade, we may believe, cannot be left very free. Every owner of wool,

who carrieth, or causeth to be carried, any wool to any port or place

on the sea coast, in order to be from thence transported by sea to any

other place or port on the coast, must first cause an entry thereof

to be made at the port from whence it is intended to be conveyed,

containing the weight, marks, and number, of the packages, before he

brings the same within five miles of that port, on pain of forfeiting

the same, and also the horses, carts, and other carriages; and also

of suffering and forfeiting, as by the other laws in force against the

exportation of wool. This law, however (1st of William III. chap. 32),

is so very indulgent as to declare, that this shall not hinder any

person from carrying his wool home from the place of shearing, though

it be within five miles of the sea, provided that in ten days after

shearing, and before he remove the wool, he do under his hand certify to

the next officer of the customs the true number of fleeces, and where

it is housed; and do not remove the same, without certifying to such

officer, under his hand, his intention so to do, three days before. Bond

must be given that the wool to be carried coast-ways is to be landed at

the particular port for which it is entered outwards; and if my part of

it is landed without the presence of an officer, not only the forfeiture

of the wool is incurred, as in other goods, but the usual additional

penalty of 3s. for every pound weight is likewise incurred.

Our woollen manufacturers, in order to justify their demand of such

extraordinary restrictions and regulations, confidently asserted, that

English wool was of a peculiar quality, superior to that of any other

country; that the wool of other countries could not, without some

mixture of it, be wrought up into any tolerable manufacture; that fine

cloth could not be made without it; that England, therefore, if the

exportation of it could be totally prevented, could monopolize to

herself almost the whole woollen trade of the world; and thus, having

no rivals, could sell at what price she pleased, and in a short time

acquire the most incredible degree of wealth by the most advantageous

balance of trade. This doctrine, like most other doctrines which are

confidently asserted by any considerable number of people, was, and

still continues to be, most implicitly believed by a much greater

number: by almost all those who are either unacquainted with the woollen

trade, or who have not made particular inquiries. It is, however, so

perfectly false, that English wool is in any respect necessary for the

making of fine cloth, that it is altogether unfit for it. Fine cloth is

made altogether of Spanish wool. English wool, cannot be even so mixed

with Spanish wool, as to enter into the composition without spoiling and

degrading, in some degree, the fabric of the cloth.

It has been shown in the foregoing part of this work, that the effect

of these regulations has been to depress the price of English wool, not

only below what it naturally would be in the present times, but very

much below what it actually was in the time of Edward III. The price of

Scotch wool, when, in consequence of the Union, it became subject to the

same regulations, is said to have fallen about one half. It is observed

by the very accurate and intelligent author of the Memoirs of Wool,

the Reverend Mr. John Smith, that the price of the best English wool

in England, is generally below what wool of a very inferior quality

commonly sells for in the market of Amsterdam. To depress the price of

this commodity below what may be called its natural and proper price,

was the avowed purpose of those regulations; and there seems to be no

doubt of their having produced the effect that was expected from them.

This reduction of price, it may perhaps be thought, by discouraging the

growing of wool, must have reduced very much the annual produce of that

commodity, though not below what it formerly was, yet below what, in

the present state of things, it would probably have been, had it, in

consequence of an open and free market, been allowed to rise to the

natural and proper price. I am, however, disposed to believe, that the

quantity of the annual produce cannot have been much, though it may,

perhaps, have been a little affected by these regulations. The growing

of wool is not the chief purpose for which the sheep farmer employs his

industry and stock. He expects his profit, not so much from the price

of the fleece, as from that of the carcase; and the average or ordinary

price of the latter must even, in many cases, make up to him whatever

deficiency there may be in the average or ordinary price of the former.

It has been observed, in the foregoing part of this work, that 'whatever

regulations tend to sink the price, either of wool or of raw hides,

below what it naturally would be, must, in an improved and cultivated

country, have some tendency to raise the price of butcher's meat. The

price, both of the great and small cattle which are fed on improved and

cultivated land, must be sufficient to pay the rent which the landlord,

and the profit which the farmer, has reason to expect from improved

and cultivated land. If it is not, they will soon cease to feed them.

Whatever part of this price, therefore, is not paid by the wool and the

hide, must be paid by the carcase. The less there is paid for the one,

the more must be paid for the other. In what manner this price is to

be divided upon the different parts of the beast, is indifferent to the

landlords and farmers, provided it is all paid to them. In an improved

and cultivated country, therefore, their interest as landlords and

farmers cannot be much affected by such regulations, though their

interest as consumers may, by the rise in the price of provisions.'

According to this reasoning, therefore, this degradation in the price of

wool is not likely, in an improved and cultivated country, to occasion

any diminution in the annual produce of that commodity; except so far

as, by raising the price of mutton, it may somewhat diminish the demand

for, and consequently the production of, that particular species of

butcher's meat, Its effect, however, even in this way, it is probable,

is not very considerable.

But though its effect upon the quantity of the annual produce may not

have been very considerable, its effect upon the quality, it may perhaps

be thought, must necessarily have been very great. The degradation in

the quality of English wool, if not below what it was in former times,

yet below what it naturally would have been in the present state of

improvement and cultivation, must have been, it may perhaps be supposed,

very nearly in proportion to the degradation of price. As the quality

depends upon the breed, upon the pasture, and upon the management and

cleanliness of the sheep, during the whole progress of the growth of the

fleece, the attention to these circumstances, it may naturally enough

be imagined, can never be greater than in proportion to the recompence

which the price of the fleece is likely to make for the labour and

expense which that attention requires. It happens, however, that the

goodness of the fleece depends, in a great measure, upon the health,

growth, and bulk of the animal: the same attention which is necessary

for the improvement of the carcase is, in some respect, sufficient for

that of the fleece. Notwithstanding the degradation of price, English

wool is said to have been improved considerably during the course even

of the present century. The improvement, might, perhaps, have been

greater if the price had been better; but the lowness of price, though

it may have obstructed, yet certainly it has not altogether prevented

that improvement.

The violence of these regulations, therefore, seems to have affected

neither the quantity nor the quality of the annual produce of wool, so

much as it might have been expected to do (though I think it probable

that it may have affected the latter a good deal more than the former);

and the interest of the growers of wool, though it must have been hurt

in some degree, seems upon the whole, to have been much less hurt than

could well have been imagined.

These considerations, however, will not justify the absolute prohibition

of the exportation of wool; but they will fully justify the imposition

of a considerable tax upon that exportation.

To hurt, in any degree, the interest of any one order of citizens,

for no other purpose but to promote that of some other, is evidently

contrary to that justice and equality of treatment which the sovereign

owes to all the different orders of his subjects. But the prohibition

certainly hurts, in some degree, the interest of the growers of wool,

for no other purpose but to promote that of the manufacturers.

Every different order of citizens is bound to contribute to the

support of the sovereign or commonwealth. A tax of five, or even of ten

shillings, upon the exportation of every tod of wool, would produce a

very considerable revenue to the sovereign. It would hurt the interest

of the growers somewhat less than the prohibition, because it would

not probably lower the price of wool quite so much. It would afford a

sufficient advantage to the manufacturer, because, though he might not

buy his wool altogether so cheap as under the prohibition, he would

still buy it at least five or ten shillings cheaper than any foreign

manufacturer could buy it, besides saving the freight and insurance

which the other would be obliged to pay. It is scarce possible to devise

a tax which could produce any considerable revenue to the sovereign, and

at the same time occasion so little inconveniency to anybody.

The prohibition, notwithstanding all the penalties which guard it, does

not prevent the exportation of wool. It is exported, it is well known,

in great quantities. The great difference between the price in the home

and that in the foreign market, presents such a temptation to smuggling,

that all the rigour of the law cannot prevent it. This illegal

exportation is advantageous to nobody but the smuggler. A legal

exportation, subject to a tax, by affording a revenue to the sovereign,

and thereby saving the imposition of some other, perhaps more burdensome

and inconvenient taxes, might prove advantageous to all the different

subjects of the state.

The exportation of fuller's earth, or fuller's clay, supposed to be

necessary for preparing and cleansing the woollen manufactures, has been

subjected to nearly the same penalties as the exportation of wool. Even

tobacco-pipe clay, though acknowledged to be different from fuller's

clay, yet, on account of their resemblance, and because fuller's clay

might sometimes be exported as tobacco-pipe clay, has been laid under

the same prohibitions and penalties.

By the 13th and 14th of Charles II. chap, 7, the exportation, not only

of raw hides, but of tanned leather, except in the shape of boots,

shoes, or slippers, was prohibited; and the law gave a monopoly to our

boot-makers and shoe-makers, not only against our graziers, but against

our tanners. By subsequent statutes, our tanners have got themselves

exempted from this monopoly, upon paying a small tax of only one

shilling on the hundred weight of tanned leather, weighing one

hundred and twelve pounds. They have obtained likewise the drawback of

two-thirds of the excise duties imposed upon their commodity, even when

exported without further manufacture. All manufactures of leather may be

exported duty free; and the exporter is besides entitled to the drawback

of the whole duties of excise. Our graziers still continue subject to

the old monopoly. Graziers, separated from one another, and dispersed

through all the different corners of the country, cannot, without

great difficulty, combine together for the purpose either of imposing

monopolies upon their fellow-citizens, or of exempting themselves from

such as may have been imposed upon them by other people. Manufacturers

of all kinds, collected together in numerous bodies in all great cities,

easily can. Even the horns of cattle are prohibited to be exported; and

the two insignificant trades of the horner and comb-maker enjoy, in this

respect, a monopoly against the graziers.

Restraints, either by prohibitions, or by taxes, upon the exportation

of goods which are partially, but not completely manufactured, are not

peculiar to the manufacture of leather. As long as anything remains

to be done, in order to fit any commodity for immediate use and

consumption, our manufacturers think that they themselves ought to have

the doing of it. Woollen yarn and worsted are prohibited to be exported,

under the same penalties as wool even white cloths we subject to a duty

upon exportation; and our dyers have so far obtained a monopoly against

our clothiers. Our clothiers would probably have been able to defend

themselves against it; but it happens that the greater part of our

principal clothiers are themselves likewise dyers. Watch-cases,

clock-cases, and dial-plates for clocks and watches, have been

prohibited to be exported. Our clock-makers and watch-makers are, it

seems, unwilling that the price of this sort of workmanship should be

raised upon them by the competition of foreigners.

By some old statutes of Edward III, Henry VIII. and Edward VI. the

exportation of all metals was prohibited. Lead and tin were alone

excepted, probably on account of the great abundance of those metals; in

the exportation of which a considerable part of the trade of the kingdom

in those days consisted. For the encouragement of the mining trade, the

5th of William and Mary, chap.17, exempted from this prohibition iron,

copper, and mundic metal made from British ore. The exportation of

all sorts of copper bars, foreign as well as British, was afterwards

permitted by the 9th and 10th of William III. chap 26. The exportation

of unmanufactured brass, of what is called gun-metal, bell-metal, and

shroff metal, still continues to be prohibited. Brass manufactures of

all sorts may be exported duty free.

The exportation of the materials of manufacture, where it is not

altogether prohibited, is, in many cases, subjected to considerable


By the 8th Geo. I. chap.15, the exportation of all goods, the produce of

manufacture of Great Britain, upon which any duties had been imposed by

former statutes, was rendered duty free. The following goods, however,

were excepted: alum, lead, lead-ore, tin, tanned leather, copperas,

coals, wool, cards, white woollen cloths, lapis calaminaris, skins of

all sorts, glue, coney hair or wool, hares wool, hair of all sorts,

horses, and litharge of lead. If you except horses, all these are either

materials of manufacture, or incomplete manufactures (which may be

considered as materials for still further manufacture), or instruments

of trade. This statute leaves them subject to all the old duties which

had ever been imposed upon them, the old subsidy, and one per cent.


By the same statute, a great number of foreign drugs for dyers use are

exempted from all duties upon importation. Each of them, however, is

afterwards subjected to a certain duty, not indeed a very heavy one,

upon exportation. Our dyers, it seems, while they thought it for their

interest to encourage the importation of those drugs, by an exemption

from all duties, thought it likewise for their own interest to throw

some small discouragement upon their exportation. The avidity, however,

which suggested this notable piece of mercantile ingenuity, most

probably disappointed itself of its object. It necessarily taught the

importers to be more careful than they might otherwise have been, that

their importation should not exceed what was necessary for the supply

of the home market. The home market was at all times likely to be

more scantily supplied; the commodities were at all times likely to be

somewhat dearer there than they would have been, had the exportation

been rendered as free as the importation.

By the above-mentioned statute, gum senega, or gum arabic, being among

the enumerated dyeing drugs, might be imported duty free. They

were subjected, indeed, to a small poundage duty, amounting only to

threepence in the hundred weight, upon their re-exportation. France

enjoyed, at that time, an exclusive trade to the country most productive

of those drugs, that which lies in the neighbourhood of the Senegal;

and the British market could not be easily supplied by the immediate

importation of them from the place of growth. By the 25th Geo. II.

therefore, gum senega was allowed to be imported (contrary to the

general dispositions of the act of navigation) from any part of Europe.

As the law, however, did not mean to encourage this species of trade, so

contrary to the general principles of the mercantile policy of England,

it imposed a duty of ten shillings the hundred weight upon such

importation, and no part of this duty was to be afterwards drawn back

upon its exportation. The successful war which began in 1755 gave Great

Britain the same exclusive trade to those countries which France

had enjoyed before. Our manufactures, as soon as the peace was made,

endeavoured to avail themselves of this advantage, and to establish a

monopoly in their own favour both against the growers and against the

importers of this commodity. By the 5th of Geo. III. therefore, chap.

37, the exportation of gum senega, from his majesty's dominions in

Africa, was confined to Great Britain, and was subjected to all the same

restrictions, regulations, forfeitures, and penalties, as that of the

enumerated commodities of the British colonies in America and the

West Indies. Its importation, indeed, was subjected to a small duty of

sixpence the hundred weight; but its re-exportation was subjected to the

enormous duty of one pound ten shillings the hundred weight. It was

the intention of our manufacturers, that the whole produce of those

countries should be imported into Great Britain; and in order that they

themselves might be enabled to buy it at their own price, that no

part of it should be exported again, but at such an expense as would

sufficiently discourage that exportation. Their avidity, however, upon

this, as well as upon many other occasions, disappointed itself of its

object. This enormous duty presented such a temptation to smuggling,

that great quantities of this commodity were clandestinely exported,

probably to all the manufacturing countries of Europe, but particularly

to Holland, not only from Great Britain, but from Africa. Upon this

account, by the 14th Geo. III. chap.10, this duty upon exportation was

reduced to five shillings the hundred weight.

In the book of rates, according to which the old subsidy was levied,

beaver skins were estimated at six shillings and eight pence a piece;

and the different subsidies and imposts which, before the year 1722,

had been laid upon their importation, amounted to one-fifth part of the

rate, or to sixteen pence upon each skin; all of which, except half

the old subsidy, amounting only to twopence, was drawn back upon

exportation. This duty, upon the importation of so important a material

of manufacture, had been thought too high; and, in the year 1722, the

rate was reduced to two shillings and sixpence, which reduced the duty

upon importation to sixpence, and of this only one-half was to be drawn

back upon exportation. The same successful war put the country most

productive of beaver under the dominion of Great Britain; and beaver

skins being among the enumerated commodities, the exportation from

America was consequently confined to the market of Great Britain. Our

manufacturers soon bethought themselves of the advantage which they

might make of this circumstance; and in the year 1764, the duty upon the

importation of beaver skin was reduced to one penny, but the duty upon

exportation was raised to sevenpence each skin, without any drawback of

the duty upon importation. By the same law, a duty of eighteen pence the

pound was imposed upon the exportation of beaver wool or woumbs,

without making any alteration in the duty upon the importation of that

commodity, which, when imported by British, and in British shipping,

amounted at that time to between fourpence and fivepence the piece.

Coals may be considered both as a material of manufacture, and as an

instrument of trade. Heavy duties, accordingly, have been imposed

upon their exportation, amounting at present (1783) to more than

five shillings the ton, or more than fifteen shillings the chaldron,

Newcastle measure; which is, in most cases, more than the original

value of the commodity at the coal-pit, or even at the shipping port for


The exportation, however, of the instruments of trade, properly so

called, is commonly restrained, not by high duties, but by absolute

prohibitions. Thus, by the 7th and 8th of William III chap.20, sect.8,

the exportation of frames or engines for knitting gloves or stockings,

is prohibited, under the penalty, not only of the forfeiture of such

frames or engines, so exported, or attempted to be exported, but of

forty pounds, one half to the king, the other to the person who shall

inform or sue for the same. In the same manner, by the 14th Geo. III.

chap. 71, the exportation to foreign parts, of any utensils made use

of in the cotton, linen, woollen, and silk manufactures, is prohibited

under the penalty, not only of the forfeiture of such utensils, but of

two hundred pounds, to be paid by the person who shall offend in this

manner; and likewise of two hundred pounds, to be paid by the master of

the ship, who shall knowingly suffer such utensils to be loaded on board

his ship.

When such heavy penalties were imposed upon the exportation of the dead

instruments of trade, it could not well be expected that the living

instrument, the artificer, should be allowed to go free. Accordingly, by

the 5th Geo. I. chap. 27, the person who shall be convicted of enticing

any artificer, of or in any of the manufactures of Great Britain, to

go into any foreign parts, in order to practise or teach his trade, is

liable, for the first offence, to be fined in any sum not exceeding one

hundred pounds, and to three months imprisonment, and until the fine

shall be paid; and for the second offence, to be fined in any sum, at

the discretion of the court, and to imprisonment for twelve months, and

until the fine shall be paid. By the 23d Geo. II. chap. 13, this penalty

is increased, for the first offence, to five hundred pounds for every

artificer so enticed, and to twelve months imprisonment, and until the

fine shall be paid; and for the second offence, to one thousand pounds,

and to two years imprisonment, and until the fine shall be paid.

By the former of these two statutes, upon proof that any person has been

enticing any artificer, or that any artificer has promised or contracted

to go into foreign parts, for the purposes aforesaid, such artificer

may be obliged to give security, at the discretion of the court, that

he shall not go beyond the seas, and may be committed to prison until he

give such security.

If any artificer has gone beyond the seas, and is exercising or teaching

his trade in any foreign country, upon warning being given to him by any

of his majesty's ministers or consuls abroad, or by one of his majesty's

secretaries of state, for the time being, if he does not, within six

months after such warning, return into this realm, and from henceforth

abide and inhabit continually within the same, he is from thenceforth

declared incapable of taking any legacy devised to him within this

kingdom, or of being executor or administrator to any person, or of

taking any lands within this kingdom, by descent, devise, or purchase.

He likewise forfeits to the king all his lands, goods, and chattels;

is declared an alien in every respect; and is put out of the king's


It is unnecessary, I imagine, to observe how contrary such regulations

are to the boasted liberty of the subject, of which we affect to be so

very jealous; but which, in this case, is so plainly sacrificed to the

futile interests of our merchants and manufacturers.

The laudable motive of all these regulations, is to extend our own

manufactures, not by their own improvement, but by the depression of

those of all our neighbours, and by putting an end, as much as possible,

to the troublesome competition of such odious and disagreeable rivals.

Our master manufacturers think it reasonable that they themselves should

have the monopoly of the ingenuity of all their countrymen. Though by

restraining, in some trades, the number of apprentices which can

be employed at one time, and by imposing the necessity of a long

apprenticeship in all trades, they endeavour, all of them, to confine

the knowledge of their respective employments to as small a number

as possible; they are unwilling, however, that any part of this small

number should go abroad to instruct foreigners.

Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the

interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may

be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.

The maxim is so perfectly self-evident, that it would be absurd to

attempt to prove it. But in the mercantile system, the interest of the

consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer; and it

seems to consider production, and not consumption, as the ultimate end

and object of all industry and commerce.

In the restraints upon the importation of all foreign commodities which

can come into competition with those of our own growth or manufacture,

the interest of the home consumer is evidently sacrificed to that of

the producer. It is altogether for the benefit of the latter, that the

former is obliged to pay that enhancement of price which this monopoly

almost always occasions.

It is altogether for the benefit of the producer, that bounties are

granted upon the exportation of some of his productions. The home

consumer is obliged to pay, first the tax which is necessary for paying

the bounty; and, secondly, the still greater tax which necessarily

arises from the enhancement of the price of the commodity in the home


By the famous treaty of commerce with Portugal, the consumer is

prevented by duties from purchasing of a neighbouring country, a

commodity which our own climate does not produce; but is obliged to

purchase it of a distant country, though it is acknowledged, that the

commodity of the distant country is of a worse quality than that of the

near one. The home consumer is obliged to submit to this inconvenience,

in order that the producer may import into the distant country some of

his productions, upon more advantageous terms than he otherwise would

have been allowed to do. The consumer, too, is obliged to pay whatever

enhancement in the price of those very productions this forced

exportation may occasion in the home market.

But in the system of laws which has been established for the management

of our American and West Indian colonies, the interest of the home

consumer has been sacrificed to that of the producer, with a more

extravagant profusion than in all our other commercial regulations. A

great empire has been established for the sole purpose of raising up a

nation of customers, who should be obliged to buy, from the shops of our

different producers, all the goods with which these could supply them.

For the sake of that little enhancement of price which this monopoly

might afford our producers, the home consumers have been burdened with

the whole expense of maintaining and defending that empire. For this

purpose, and for this purpose only, in the two last wars, more than two

hundred millions have been spent, and a new debt of more than a hundred

and seventy millions has been contracted, over and above all that had

been expended for the same purpose in former wars. The interest of

this debt alone is not only greater than the whole extraordinary profit

which, it never could be pretended, was made by the monopoly of the

colony trade, but than the whole value of that trade, or than the whole

value of the goods which, at an average, have been annually exported to

the colonies.

It cannot be very difficult to determine who have been the contrivers of

this whole mercantile system; not the consumers, we may believe, whose

interest has been entirely neglected; but the producers, whose interest

has been so carefully attended to; and among this latter class, our

merchants and manufacturers have been by far the principal architects.

In the mercantile regulations which have been taken notice of in this

chapter, the interest of our manufacturers has been most peculiarly

attended to; and the interest, not so much of the consumers, as that of

some other sets of producers, has been sacrificed to it.