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Progress of the Nation. page 4


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Sir Walter Raleigh, in a treatise on the comparative commerce of England and Holland, endeavoured to draw the attention of James I. to the immense advantages that the Dutch were drawing from our neglect. He showed that whenever there was a time of scarcity in England, instead of sending out our ships and supplying ourselves, we allowed the Dutch to pour in goods and reap the advantage of the high prices; and he declared that in a year and a half they had taken from Bristol, Southampton, and Exeter alone, two hundred thousand pounds, which our merchants might as well have had. He reminded the king that the most productive fisheries in the world were on the British coasts, yet that the Dutch and people of the Hanse Towns came and supplied all Europe with their fish to the amount of two million pounds annually, whilst the English could scarcely be said to have any trade at all in it. The Dutch, he said, sent yearly a thousand ships laden with wine and salt, obtained in France and Spain, to the north of Europe, whilst we, with superior advantages, sent none. He pointed out equally striking facts of their enterprise in the timber trade, having no timber themselves; that our trade with Russia, which used to employ a large number of ships, had fallen off to almost nothing, whilst that of the Dutch had marvellously increased. What, he observed, was still more lamentable - we allowed them to draw the chief profit and credit even from our own manufactures, for we sent our woollen goods, to the amount of eighty thousand pieces, abroad undyed, and the Dutch and others dyed them, and reshipped them to Spain, Portugal, and other countries as Flemish baizes, besides netting a profit of four hundred thousand pounds annually at our expense. Had James listened to the wise suggestions of Raleigh, instead of destroying him, and listening to such silly, base minions as Rochester and Buckingham, our commerce would have shown a very different aspect.

It is true that some years after James endeavoured to secure the profit pointed out by Raleigh from dyed cloths; but instead of first encouraging the dyeing of such cloths here, so as to enable the merchants to carry them to the markets in the South on equal or superior terms to the Dutch, he suddenly passed an act prohibiting the export of any undyed cloths. This the Dutch met by an act prohibiting the import of any dyed cloths into Holland; and the English not producing an equal dye to the Dutch, thus lost both markets, to the great confusion of trade; and this mischief was only gradually overcome by our merchants beginning to dye their yarn, so as to have no undyed cloth to export, and by improving their dyes.

During the reign of James commercial enterprise showed itself in the exertions of various chartered companies trading to distant parts of the world. The East India Company was established in the reign of Elizabeth, the first charter being granted by her in 1600. James was wise enough to renew it, and it went on with various success, ultimately so little in his time, that at his death it was still a doubtful speculation; but under such a monarch it could not hope for real encouragement. In its very commencement he granted a charter to a rival company to trade to China, Japan, and other countries in the Indian seas, in direct violation of the East India Company's charter, which so disgusted that company, as nearly to have caused them to relinquish their aim. In 1613 they obtained a charter from the Great Mogul to establish a factory at Surat, and the same year they obtained a similar charter from the emperor of Japan. In 1615 Sir Thomas. Roe went as ambassador from England to the Great Mogul, and resided at his court for four years. By this time the company had extensively spread its settlements. It had factories at Acheen, Zambee, and Tekoa, in Sumatra; at Surat, Amadavad, Agra, Azmere, and Buram- pore, in the Mogul's territories; at Firando, in Japan; at Bantam, Batavia, and Japara, in Java; and others in Borneo, the Banda Isles, Malacca, and Siam, in the Celebes; and at Masulipatam and Petapoli, on the Coromandel coast; and at Calicut, the original settlement of the Portuguese on the coast of Malabar. Their affairs were, in fact, extremely flourishing, and their stock sold at 203 per cent.; but this prosperity awoke the jealousy of the Dutch, who carried on a most profitable trade with Java and the Spice Islands, and in spite of a treaty concluded betwixt the two nations in 1619, the Dutch governor-general attacked and took from the company the islands of Lantore and Pulo Rangoon. This was only the beginning of their envious malice, for in 1623 they committed the notorious massacre of the English company at Amboyna, and expelled the English out of all the Spice Islands. Had this occurred in Cromwell's days, they would soon have paid a severe retribution; but James was just then anxious to secure the aid of the Dutch in restoring his son-in-law, the count palatine, and these atrocities were quietly smoothed over and left unavenged. The consequence was, that the affairs of the company fell into a most depressed condition, and though in 1616, when their stock was worth 200 per cent., they had raised a new stock of one million six hundred and twenty-nine thousand and forty pounds, which was taken by nine hundred and fifty- four individuals, principally of the higher aristocracy, at the close of James's reign the stock had fallen half its value.

Charles did not prove a more far-sighted or just patron of the India Company than his father. In 1631 they managed to raise a new stock of four hundred and twenty thousand pounds, but whilst they were struggling with the hostilities of their rivals, the Dutch and Portuguese, the king perpetrated precisely the same injury on them that his father had done, by granting a charter to another company, which embroiled them with the Mogul and the Chinese, causing the English to be entirely expelled from China, and injuring the India Company to a vast extent. The civil war in England then prevented the attention of the government being directed to the affairs of this important company. At the end of Charles's reign the company's affairs were at the worst, and its trade appeared extinct. In 1649, however, the parliament encouraged the raising of a new stock, which was done with extreme difficulty, and only amounted to one hundred and ninety-two thousand pounds. But in 1654, the parliament having humbled the Dutch, compelled them to pay a balance of damages of eighty-five thousand pounds and three thousand six hundred pounds to the heirs of the murdered men at Amboyna. It required years, however, to revive the prosperity of the company, and it was only in 1657 that, obtaining a new charter from the protector, and raising a new stock of three hundred and seventy thousand pounds, it rose again into vigour, and traded successfully till the restoration.

During this period, too, the incorporated companies - Turkey Merchants or the Levant Company, the Company of Merchant Adventurers trading to Holland and Germany, the Muscovy Company trading to Russia and the North, where they prosecuted also the whale fishery - were in active operation, besides a great general trade with Spain, Portugal, and other countries. The Turkey Merchants carried out to the Mediterranean our cloths, lead, tin, spices, indigo, calicoes, and other Indian produce brought home by our East India Company; and they imported thence the raw silks of Persia and Syria, galls from Aleppo, cotton and cotton yarn from Cyprus and Smyrna; drugs, oils, and camlets, grograms, and mohairs, of Angora. In 1652 we find coffee first introduced from Turkey, and a coffeehouse set up in Cornhill. On the breaking out of the civil war, the Muscovy Company were deprived of their charter by the czar, because they took part with the parliament against their king, and the Dutch adroitly came in for the trade.

These great monopolies of foreign trade were supposed to be necessary to stimulate and protect our commerce; but the system of domestic monopolies which were most destructive to enterprise at home, which had arrived at such a height under Elizabeth, was continued by both James and Charles to the last, notwithstanding the constant outcries against them, and their being compelled, ever and anon, by public spirit to make temporary concessions.

The commerce of England was now beginning to receive a sensible increase by the colonies which she had established in America and the West Indies. One of the earliest measures of James was the founding of two chartered companies to settle on the coasts of North America. One called the London Adventurers, or South Virginia Company, was empowered to plant the coast from the 34th to the 41st degree, which now includes Maryland, Virginia, and North and South Carolina. The other, the company of Plymouth Adventurers, were authorised to plant all from the 41st degree to the 45th of north latitude, which now includes the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and New England. In 1612 a settlement was made in Bermuda. The state of New England was founded by the planting of New Plymouth in 1620, and about the same time the French were driven out of Nova Scotia, and the island of Barbadoes was taken possession of; and within a few years various other West India islands were secured and planted. James granted all the Caribbee Isles to his favourite, James Hay, earl of Carlisle, and the grant was confirmed by Charles, who also granted to Robert Heath and his heirs all the Bahama Isles and the vast territory of Carolina, including the present North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and the south of Louisiana. In 1632 Charles also granted the present Maryland to lord Baltimore, a catholic, which became the refuge of the persecuted catholics in England, as the New England states did of the puritans.

These immense territories were gradually peopled by the victims of persecution and the victims of crime. According as the storm of religious persecution raged against the catholics, the puritans, or the episcopalians and royalists, they got away to New England, Maryland, or Virginia. By degrees the Indians were driven back, and cotton, tobacco, and in the West Indies the sugar cane became objects of cultivation. James abominated tobacco, and published his "Counterblast" against it, laying various restrictions upon its growth; but as the high duties imposed upon it proved very profitable to the revenue, gradually these restrictions were relaxed, and all cultivation of it at home was prohibited in favour of the colonies, and has continued so ever since. The Dutch had managed to engross the carrying trade under James and Charles to our American and West India colonies, having a strong position at New Amsterdam, now New York; but of this the parliament, after the revolution, deprived them in 1646, and extended that regulation to all our foreign trade by the famous Navigation Act 1651. In 1656 Cromwell's conquest of Jamaica completed our power in the West Indies.

The growth of our commerce was soon conspicuous by one great consequence, the growth of London. It was in vain that both James and Charles issued repeated proclamations to prohibit fresh erections of houses, and to order the nobility and gentry to live more on their estates in the country, and not in London, in habits of such extravagance, and drawing together so much loose company after them. From the union of the crowns of Scotland and England, this rapid increase of the metropolis, so alarming to these kings, was more than ever visible. When James came to the throne in 1603, London and Westminster were a mile apart, but the Strand was quickly populated by the crowds of Scots that followed the court; and though St. Giles's-in- the-Fields was then a distinct town, standing in the open country, with a very deep and dirty lane, called Drury Lane, running from it to the Strand, before the civil wars it had become united to London and Westminster by new erections in Clare Market, Long Acre, Bedfordbury, and the adjoining neighbourhood. Anderson, in his "History of Commerce," gives us some curious insight into this part of London at this period. "The very names of the older streets about Covent Garden," he observes, "are taken from the royal family at this time, or in the reign of Charles II., as Catherine Street, Duke Street, York Street. Of James and Charles the I.'s time, James Street, Charles Street, Henrietta Street, &c., all laid out by the great architect, Inigo Jones, as was also the fine piazza there, although that part where stood the house and gardens of the duke of Bedford is of much later date, namely, in the reigns of king William and queen Anne. Bloomsbury, and the streets at the Seven Dials, were built up somewhat later, as also Leicester Fields, since the restoration of Charles II., as also almost all of St. James's and St. Anne's parishes, and a great part of St. Martin's and St. Giles's. I have met with several old persons in my younger days who remembered that there was but a single house, a cake-house, between the Mews-gate at Charing Cross and St. James's Palace-gate, where now stand the stately piles of St. James's Square, Pall Mall, and other fine streets. They also remembered the west side of St. Martin's Lane to have been a quickset hedge; yet High Holborn and Drury Lane were filled with noblemen's and gentlemen's houses and gardens almost a hundred and fifty years ago. Those five streets of the south side of the Strand, running down to the river Thames, have all been built since the beginning of the seventeenth century upon the sites of noblemen's houses and gardens, who removed further westward, as their names denote. Even some parts within the bars of the city of London remained unbuilt within about a hundred and fifty years past, particularly all the ground between Shoe Lane and Fewters, now Fetter Lane, so called, says Howell in his Londonopolis, from Fewters, an old appellation of idle people loitering there, as in a way leading to gardens; which, in Charles I.'s reign, and even some of them since, have been built up into streets, lanes, &c. Several other parts of the city have been rendered more populous by the removal of the nobility to Westminster, on the sites of whose former spacious houses and gardens whole streets, lanes, and courts have been added to the city since the death of queen Elizabeth."

The extension of the metropolis necessitated the introduction of hackney coaches, which first began to ply, but only twelve in number, in 1625. In 1634 sedan-chairs were introduced to relieve the streets of the rapidly increased number of hackney-coaches, and other carriages; and in 1635 a post-office for the kingdom was established, a foreign post having been for some years in existence. In 1653 the post was farmed for ten thousand pounds a year.

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Pictures for Progress of the Nation. page 4

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