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AN HISTORICAL

DEDUCTION OF COMMERCE

FROM ITS ORIGIN.

com.

COMMERCE* is almost as old as the creation, and a very small increase of mankind The origin proved its utility, and demonstrated the natural dependence our species had upon one af.com.ity another: their employs were (by the wise disposition of Providence) suited to their merce. wants; and the diligent discharge of the one (by his blessing) rendered sufficient to supply the moderate cravings of the other; and though tilling of the earth, or feeding of flocks, were the sole primevous labours, yet (limited as they were) they could not be exercised by our first parents, with that comfort their great Creator designed them, without a mutual correspondence and traffick, as the husbandman's subsistence would have been poor without the grazier's help, and the latter's comfortless, under the want of corn, fruits, and pulse to his milk; this led them to an exchange of commodities; and thus commerce commenced in the infant world, and so continued whilst our pró. genitors could content themselves with these riches of nature, and were not obliged, by a growing posterity, to alter their method in disposing of them. But when this became the case, and buying and selling by the intervention of money was found most convenient in their commercial engagements, this method was invented and adopted in lieu of barter by the most polished nations, and so handed down to us, with the exception of those savages, (and some people not much better where the use of coin has hitherto remained unknown, and their traffick carried on in its primitive way, though not always with its native simplicity. But before this alteration, and great increase of mankind, their desires were easily satisfied, as their wants were the boundaries of them; they contentedly made the fleece of their sheep serve them for clothing, and their hunger found a ready supply from their gardens and kine; a neigh. bouring spring slacked their thirst; and a tree, or a tent, was sufficient to defend them from the inclemencies of weather, in those climes where the first race was settled...mi. Their labour procured them a satisfactory support, and the products of the earth and

• In the fifth edition of this work by Mr. Mortimer, a distinction is made between the terms trade and commerce. Trade is defined to be that description of traffick which is carried on by the members of a state · between themselves, and commerce to be the intercourse between the subjects of different nations by means of navigation. But there is no foundation for this distinction. See Johnson's Dict. “Commerce" and " Trade."

YOL, I.

B

train of mischiefs and diss, which spreading as traceof

primeval golden

cattle served them both for necessaries and regales, till their corruptions brought in fraud, and this gave birth to avarice and violence; the stronger began to invade the weaker, and as these oppressive acquisitions could only be maintained by force and policy, cities were built, and governments formed; and when by this means an aggregated number swelled to too great a magnitude, to have their necessities supplied by their neighbouring territories, they were compelled to seek for remoter helps, by commerce, destroying those halcyon days, pregnant with the blessing of health and peace, by the introduction of luxury and excess, which spreading as trade did, carried with them a long train of mischiefs and diseases, quite changing the face of the primeval golden age, so replete with quiet and tranquillity: distempers and disquiets flowed in from this defection; and our unhappy forefathers no sooner quitted the rules of abstinence and moderation, than they found this deviation and change productive of a thousand ills, destructive both to the ease of mind and body. · But though these were the fatal consequences of commerce thus abused, yet the growth of vitiated mankind, and the peopling thereby of different parts and continents, rendered the continuation of it absolutely necessary for their comfort and support; and life itself would have proved burthensome, without this means of mutual assistance, which, in process of time, increasing as mankind did, and men's views and designs being extended in proportion to their desires, trade was no longer limited to the providing necessaries only, but profit was sought in, and became a motive to, the carrying it on; which, however, might occasionally have promoted both unity and charity among them, had the correspondence been conducted with that sincerity it ought, and by I this means rendered productive of those reciprocal benefits and advantages, that

naturally accrue from the supplying the wants of one country, with the superfluities of another. And though the degeneracy of mankind has perverted these lines leading to happiness, from having the intended effect, by their intermixing cozénage and deceit in their dealings, and, før many ages past, made ambition and avarice the motives to the continuance and extension of trade, more than want; yet these sinister designs have accidentally proved very beneficial to these latter ages, as it is probable without such excitements, the greatest part of the world had still remained unknown to us! but, pushed on by the desires of gain, in order to support the one, and satisfy the other, men have made the many discoveries which lay hid for ages, and disregarded the risks they run, and the inconveniencies they suffered, whilst they considered themselves in the road to riches and preferment; the pleasing prospeet animated them to fresht engagements, and a succession of these opened to us the wide field for trade that now lies before us; and whatever the motives were to the daring enterprises of former ages, we of this are géñerally indebted to the undertakers of them for many of the comforts and conveniencies of life. And my design in the remainder of this chapter being toʻshow the advantages we receive from their labours, and to deduce the growth and progress of trade from the small beginnings I have mentioned, I shall hasten to let the reader see, in a small traét, the beneficial influence it always had, and still has, on human affairs ;' and that all nations have increased in strength and power, or remained weak and abject; in proportion as they have encouraged or neglected commerce'; which is now becoine an universal means, that offers itself to every one, for the improvement of his fortune, and from whence the most flourishing states derive their strength, the sovereigns their surest funds, and partieulars the establishment of their families in ease and splendor...1 t il 12

Whoever runs over all the ages of the world, will find, that the histories even of the most warlike nations, will furnish him with as large accounts of their commerce as of their conquests, and the narrative to be equally extensive and full on the one subject as on the other.

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If the greatest empires avere established by valour and the force of arms, they were made firm, and supported, only, by the succours, which trade (with the labour and Industry of the people) furnished them with; and the conquerors would soon have Janguished, and perished with the conquered, had they not (as the scripture expresses at) converted the iron of their arms into ploughshares, and had recourse to the riches which agriculture, manufactures, and commerce produce, in order to preserve and improve, by the tranquil arts of peace, the advantages acquired in the horrors and tumults of war. ' . And to enter more largely into the proof of the above general assertion; of the utility and excellence of trade, let us look back into the first ages of the world, and bring the history of it down to our own times; and I flatter myself, that I shall be able solidly to prove, by the examples I shall produce, that the nations neither were, nor are, power. ful; the cities rich, nor populous, but in proportion as they bave extended their commerce; and those princes do not well understand their own interests, nor will render their reigns flourishing, or their people liappy, who do not by all means en

render their reignect their trading sub learned author ofersuaded, that the

of the

Mons. Huet* (the illustrious and learned author of that excellent book, entitled, A Treatise of the Commerce of the Ancients) seems persuaded, that the Phenicians were the first navigators in the world; though many think with the ingenious Dr. Garcin, who with more probability iassigns it to the Arabians, in the little tract he has communicated to the publick about it; and conscious of my own mean capacity, I shall not presume to offer my sentiments in so intricate an affair, more especially after what has been said by those learned authors on the subject, but give my reader their own words, in which he will find the reasons they assign for their different conclusions, and from which he may draw motives for fixing his judgment on the side he thinks most agreeable to it and truth. I shall begin with the opinion of the first of these great men, and conclude the chapter with that of the latter. . . . .

The Phenicians, and Tyre their capital, are the first that present themselves on ex- Commerce amining the commerce of the ancients; and these will sufficiently prove, to what a

" Tyrians, eight of glory, grandeur, and riches, a nation is capable of attaining by the sole resources of commerce.' '. : i .

These people (as is remarked by the aforesaid Mr. Huet) only occupied a narrow border along the sea-coast, and Tyre itself was built on an ungrateful barren soil, which, when most fruitful and productive, was insufficient to support that great number of inhabitants, which the first successes of trade had brought thither. : · Two advantages, however, indemnified this defect; they had excellent ports on the coast of their little state, particularly that of their capital ; and they were born with so happy a genius for trade, as to be commonly associated with the Egyptians, in the bonour done these latter, by supposing them the inventors of naval coininerce, parti. cularly that of long voyages. .

The Phenicians knew so happily how to profit by these two advantages, that they soon became masters of the sea and commerce. Lebanon, and the other neighbouring mountains, furnished them with excellent wood for the construction of their ships; and they had in a short time numerous fleets, which ran the hazard of unknown voyages to establish their trade; and their people multiplying almost to infinity, by the great number of strangers, which the desire of gain, and the sure occasion of enriching themselves, drew to their city; they found themselves in a condition to send out many colonies, particularly that famous one of Carthage, which preserved the Pheni. cian spirit in regard to traffick, and did not yield any thing to. Tyre itself in its trade,

* Bishop of Avranches or Soissons.

It 18

the precaution and sortunate city ; for the Turned an asylum and resource

whilst it greatly surpassed it in the extent of its dominion, as there will be occasion to show hereafter. '

The degree of glory and power, to which the commerce and navigation of Tyre had raised it, rendered it so famous, that the report of profane authors would hardly be believed destitute of exaggeration, had not the Prophets themselves spoke of it with still greater magnificence; so that the description of its grandeur, of its forces, and the almost incredible number of its vessels, merchants, and merchandizes, makes one of the most beautiful passages in the prophecy of Ezekiel, which could not possibly be forgot, when we are speaking of the excellence of commerce, and its splendor. And the prophet Isaiah likewise says, That Tyre is the common city of all nations, and the centre of all commerce, and, in a word, is the queen of cities, whereof the merchants are princes, and which has for traders the most illustrious persons of the earth. Such was the ancient Tyre, when (following the prophecies of Ezekiel) she fell, or sunk, under the arms of Nebuchadnezzar, after a siege of thirteen years. It is true, that Providence had (if we may so say) secured an asylum and resource to the inhabitants of this unfortunate city; for the Tyrians, during so long a siege, had both the precaution and time to fortify a neighbouring island, where they established their maritime forces, and where their merchants retired with their stores and merchandizes, and there continued a business so flourishing, that the taking and ruining of their first city, did not destroy their empire of the sea, nor the reputation of their commerce.

. : It was this new city of Tyre; which, trusting in its riches and puissance, dared afterwards to resist Alexander the Great, already master of one part of Asia, and had like to have interrupted, for some time, the course of his victories; but in pay of its temerity, it was entirely destroyed by the conqueror; and, to the end there might remain to it no hopes of being raised from its fall as the first time) he removed its marine and commerce, transferring them to Alexandria, a new city that its founder intended to make the capital of the empire of Asia, of which he then meditated to achieve the

conquest. Commerce. Whilst the one and the other Tyre expérienced these great revolutions, Carthage, a Carthagi. Tyrian colony, as aforesaid, augmented its forces by trade, and by that put itself in a

condition once to dispute with Rone the empire of the world. :

These new Africans soon reaped the benefits, which the happy situation of their city * offered, and profited by the genius for trade and navigation, which they had brought

with them from Phenicia ; they made their fleets and merchants pass on one side to the
ocean, beyond the Pillars of Hercules; and, on the other, along the whole western
coast of Europe ; and, if some authors may be credited, their pilots and their merchants
even had the boldness, or good fortune, to be the first that penetrated as far as those un-
known lands, of which the discovery so many ages afterwards has done so much
honour, and brought so much profit, to the Spaniards.
• The Carthaginians, quite occupied in their commerce, never thought (till too late)
'to value themselves on the immense riches, which they had amassed by this means)

for extending their dominion abroad; but their being tired of their pacific merchant
state cost them dear.

Their city, which trade had peopled with above seven hundred thousand inhabitants, was soon deserted, to furnish their armies with troops and recruits. Their fleets, accustomed solely to carry their merchants and merchandize, were now only loaded with soldiers and warlike stores, and of their : wisest, and more fortunate traders were formed those chiefs, and generals of armies, which were destined to make Rome tremble, and put Carthage in a condition to become the mistress of the

of the

nians.

· world.

ligyptians

- The high feats of arms of the Carthaginians in Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, and particularly in Italy, under the famous Hannibal, and also the disorder of their affairs by the victories of the two Scipios, are facts well known, and are of too little import to the matter of which we treat here, to call for any detail of them ; and I shall only add, that trade had raised Carthage to so high a degree of riches and power, as obliged the Romans to a fifty years cruel and doubtful war, to subdue this rival; and, in fine, triumphant Rome believed she could not entirely subjugate and reduce her by any better means, than cutting off those resources which she might yet find in trade, and which, during so long a time, had supported her against all the forces of the republick.

It was, in effect, that resolution of the senate which decided the fate of Carthage ; and the Carthaginians themselves were so terrified, that having apprehended by this design, they should be obliged to give up their feet, and to retire inland five leagues from the sea, they chose rather to expose themselves to the hazards of a third Punić war (so fatal to them) than to renounce, so easily, the only hopes that could remain to them in their misfortunes, and voluntarily consent to see their commerce pass to Utica, where they knew the Romans, to achieve their ruin, proposed to transfer it, as we have said Alexander did that of Tyre, to the new city he had given his name to, when he determined to punish the Tyrians for having dared to retard his conquests. ..

Alexander lived too short a time to be witness of the happy and Aourishing state, Commerce to which commerce would elevate this last city. The Ptolemies, who after his death of the had Egypt for their part of his conquests, took care to support the infant trade of -Alexandria, and soon brought it to such a degree of perfection and extent, as to bury in oblivion both Tyre and Carthage, which, during so long a time, had carried it ont, almost alone, and had re-assembled to them the commerce of all other nations. . - The so sudden success of the commerce of Alexandria ought not to occasion much surprize, when reflection is made on its happy situation, which rendered it so commodious to be the depository of all merchandizes from the east and west. . This famous city had on one side a free commerce with Asia, and all the east, by the Red Sea ; the same sea and the Nile gave her entrance into the vast and rich countries of Ethiopia. The commerce of the rest of Africk and Europe was open to her by the Mediterranean; and, if she would carry on the interior commerce of Egypt, she had besides the convenience of the Nile, and canals made by the hands of men, (works immortal, and almost incredible, of the first Egyptians) she had, I say, the help of caravans so convenient for the safety of merchants, and for the transportation of their merchandizes.

There was added a large and safe port, where foreign vessels arrived from all parts, and whence departed incessantly the Egyptian vessels, which carried their merchants and commerce to all parts of the then known world.

It was this conveniency of depositing merchandizes at Alexandria, that spread through all Egypt those immense riches, which rendered their kings sufficiently powerful to support themselves, for more than an age, against the Romans, who endeavoured from time to time to subdue so fine a kingdom: riches so considerable, that historians affirm, that the product only of the customs of importation and exportation, upon the merchandizes that passed the custom-houses of Alexandria, amounted annually to more than thirty millions of livres, (or about 2,250,000l. sterling) though the major part of the Ptolemies were moderate enough in the imposts which they laid on their people. Before the battle of Actium, the Romans had always found, in the spoils of the Commerce

of the nations they bad subjected, from whence to fill the treasury of the republick, and, at Romans.

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