Page images

It oannot positively be affirmed that the isle of Ceylon has been formerly rich in gold, as many of the learned believed, and that this fleet which certainly went thither, drew its gold from thence, as it did its precious stones, cassia, and cinnamon; but it may be supposed, with much greater probability, that it got it from some part of the peninsula of Malacca, called anciently the Chersonese of gold, or from the island of Sumatra, since this has been always, as it still is, full of this precious metal. The sea is as easy, or easier to pass from the isle of Ceylon to that of Sumatra by the western monsoon, than it is from Arabia to the coast of Malabar, or to the island of Ceylon, as I have demonstrated. These two traverses have been always practised with the greatest facility. That which the learned suppose along the eastern coast of Africa to Soffala, is ten times more difficult and dangerous, without reckoning that this last place is two hundred leagues more distant from Arabia than the isle of Sumatra is, and that the

winds, which are not the same, nigh this coast, as in the middle of the sea, are irre· gular, and very often contrary. In a proper season, a passage is now made from Arabia

to Sumatra in less than a month, which cannot be done in four, from the same place to Soffala, by coasting Africa, in any time that may be chosen. I

It is then clear that this is that direct route from Arabia to Ceylon and Sumatra which the Arabians took ; and which the fleet of Solomon always chose as the easiest and most profitable, or as the only one that could procure him the most precious merchandizes of all the East as well as all sorts of spices.

Aloe, which is a most odoriferous wood, and which is spoken of in Scripture, is only found in these countries, and of which it having been always a principal commerce, is a strong proof, that the fleet of the Arabians, and that of Solomon, went to those places. Let us yet add, that the woods of Almugghim came from thence, and it may reasonably be supposed the Sandal, being also a sweet smelling wood; it comes from the island of Timor, and the Macassers have always carried it to Malacca and Achin, in the isle of Sumatra, for sale to the other nations of India, who have ever diligently sought it.

These elucidations, which strongly agree in favour of the truth of those ancient voyages, ought to release the curious from the perplexities and embarrassments, into which the commentators on the Bible, by the difference of their opinions on this matter, have thrown them. The ancient history of commerce receives also a clear light from this easy demonstration, where the navigation of the Indies has always been, and the transport of the rich merchandizes that have at all times come from thence.

Besides, it is seen by these. very eclaircissements, that it is by no means necessary to make the fleets of Solomon and Hiram undertake the painful tour of Africa, to fetch every time the gold and merchandize as far as Spain, as Mr. Huet has pretended, and yet more recently the author of the Spectacle de la Nature. These gentlemen, on the credit of some ancient historians, who relate an example of a voyage that was made round Africa, have thought they might conclude, that the fleets of the Hebrews and Tyrians, which sailed from the Red Sea, made this route in the same manner, and, what is more, that they repeated it, according to them, every three years.

This is not a proper place to enlarge on explaining the difficulties the fleets must encounter, to make this prodigious tour along shore, as these authors have advanced : It is easier to imagine it in a closet than to make it on the spot, and to go to examine or prove the dangers; if they had drawn for themselves an exact picture of the fatigues to be endured in risking to follow the coasts of this great part of the world, and had painted the unknown shelves and banks under water, with which the coasts are so well-furnished; the contrary winds and currents which last long; and, what is worse, the wrecks which tempests almost continually occasion, on being too near a shore, they would, without doubt, have changed their language. Even now, when


navigation is more perfect than ever, how many wrecks happen in tempestuous seasons, when ships are in sight of the coasts either near their arrival, or after sailing from some port? These wrecks would be more frequent and numerous, if the seas and havens were strange and unknown, and without the charts now used, of which they were formerly ignorant. Tot 0 blog in S08190 1910 is 5

The coasts of Africa are in many parts difficult to frequent; there are heights, lengths, and steepnesses, full of shelves, and where the sea is dreadful in the motion and noise of its waves, which break against an infinitude of rocks. How many ships have the Portuguese, English, and Dutch lost, and still lose, near the Cape of Good Hope, notwithstanding the great experience they have had in navigation on that coast ! Their losses have been still greater on many occasions in the very road of that cape. 5 Africa has in truth always produced gold and ivory, but it is a mistake to think that it has also yielded spices and precious stones; if historians of former times, and, among others, Pliny, have affirmed it, they ought to be regarded as having fallen into an error in that respect, the same as has often happened to them in many other things.

On the contrary, the Indies have always abundantly afforded these rich productions, with many others, of which use has been made in trade. Present experience suffices to demonstrate these two truths; and these are facts which prove in their turn, that it was not to Africa, and yet less to Spain, that Solomon sent his fleet to load those precious commodities, so diligently sought after in antiquity. If any such fleet had risked making the tour of Africa to come to Spain, what appearance or probability was there that it returned by the same way, and under the same risks, rather than through the Mediterranean, to get to some port in Syria, which is much nearer, and the sea better known and less dangerous ? to bow at Ceb SH Ophir and Tarshish, where the said fleets went, according to Scripture, are not then the same places that Mess. Huet and Pluche have endeavoured to establish in Africa and Spain, viz. Ophir at Soffala, and Tarshish in Andalusia. The learned Bochart has likewise found these places in the Indies, notwithstanding the opposition which the Abbé Pluche made against him. I am strongly led to believe, with Antoine du Pinet, the translator of Pliny, that Tarshish was Guzurate, named by Pliny himself Gedrosi Populi, That author always translated this ancient name into that of Tarshish and Guzurate. 29 70 9919 070


owo The first voyages to the Indies were made from that side, and it is probable from this, that the Hebrews called the sea which bordered on it, the Sea of Tarshish, to distinguish it from the Red Sea, which was the nearest to their country among those to . the eastward of them. wing alt slab i mill be tomologia

In fine, in respect of Ophir, it appears, that that place must be Sumatra, because this isle has always been the richest in gold; or else the Peninsula of Malacca, believed to be the Golden Chersonese of the ancients, and where were found the odoriferous woods, and other aromatics, which the more remote nations have always brought there, and even to Achin, the capital of Sumatra. 198 best at bolike do

To finish this subject, I shall remark, that the author of the Spectacle de la Nature has attempted to demonstrate, “ that the knowledge of the north star rendered navi“gation anciently more bold and fortunate; that the Phænicians were those that applied “ themselves to it most; that they taught it with success to the Hebrews; and that “they served for guides to the fleets of Solomon; and that, in fine, by their indefatigable « activity, and by their continual attention to the information of the polar star, they a penetrated every where:” by which this learned man gives us to understand, that these same Phænicians made the Hebrews make the tour of Africa by the assistance of that star; but how could it serve for this long voyage, when it is hardly seen only at five degrees of northern latitude, that is to say, one hundred leagues on this side the line prode


This author, to shew that the Phoenicians with the Hebrews might make this tour coastways, relates an example taken from Herodotus, viz. that Necao, king of Egypt, sent some pilots on the Red Sea, and ordered them to make the tour of Africa, which they did, and, returning by the Straits of Gibraltar, they arrived in Egypt the third year: but when will another fleet, supposing this story true, be able to do the same? And, seeing that these pilots were near three years in making this tour, the fleet of Solomon would not have failed being almost six, in making the same voyage twice, going and coming without counting its stay in Spain; besides, a fleet never sails, by a third, so quick, as a ship or two, can separately.

As these pilots with their people did not incumber themselves, it is said, with many provisions to make this prodigious tour, he takes care to relate the passage of Herodotus, which says, “ that these people advanced into the Southern Sea, and that as « they were not ignorant, that the summer rains destroyed, in the most remote part of « Africa, that which was sown in the spring, when they found themselves in Autumn, " they landed, sowed, and waited the crop, without ever leaving the coasts of Lybia, " that is to say, of Africa, getting in their harvest, and reimbarking.”

This favours strongly of a fable, to any one acquainted with the country and soil of Africa ; besides, Herodotus supposes a thing of which he was ignorant, viz. that our autumn makes the spring in the meridional parts of Africa, their seasons being opposite to ours. There might be many things offered to demonstrate the impossibility of this. practice among travellers of this order. :: When a writer is ignorant of geographical particulars, and the nature of a remote country, he cannot avoid, at least, falling into false suppositions, when he speaks minutely of them. This is what persons who know these places, by having been there, generally remark very well and justly.



THE term merchant (in Latin mercator) or trader, from tradendo, as Minshew derives it, is in England, according to the general acceptation of the word, now confined to him who buys and sells any commodities in gross, or deals in exchange; that trafficks in the way of commerce, either by importation or exportation; or that carries on business by way of emption, vendition, barter, permutation, or exchange; and that makes a continued assiduity or frequent negociation in the mystery of merchandizing his sole business.

It is true, that formerly every one, who was a buyer or seller in the retail way, was called a merchant; and they continue to be deemed so still, both in France and Holland; but here shopkeepers, or those who attend fairs and markets, have lost that appellation.

In 2 Brownlow's Rep. 99, Lord Coke said, “ There are four sorts of merchants, viz. s merchant adventurers, dormant, travelling, and residents; but for legal purposes < there is no distinction.” And per Holt, Ch. J. 2 Salk, 445, “ The term merchant * includes all sorts of traders.”

The mercantile profession is very ancient, and generally esteemed noble and independent: in France by two arrets of Lewis XIV. the one in 1669, and the other of 1701, a nobleman is allowed to trade both by land and sea, without any disparagement to his nobility; and we have frequent instances of merchants being ennobled in that country, in regard of the utility their commerce, and the manufactures they have set up, has produced to the state. In Bretaigne, even a retail-trader does not derogate from his nobility, which only sleeps whilst he continues to exercise it, or, in other words, he only ceases to enjoy the privileges of his noblesse, whilst he carries on commerce, and reassumes it by giving over trade, without any letter or instrument of rehabilitation. In many other states, and more especially in the republicks of Venice, Holland, and Genoa, its value encreases, and I wish I could say the same regard was paid it in England, as it merits from a trading nation ;* but its importance is not so:. justly considered by us as it ought to be, more especially, as we enjoy every desirable advantage for carrying it on; and, could the gentlemen engaged in it be brought to this way of thinking, and be persuaded to do justice to a profession we all esteem honourable, by a stricter imitation of the above-mentioned states, and, not only to study, but appropriate their assiduity and diligence (more especially that practised by our industrious Flemish neighbours) from a sincere conviction of the excellency of the mercantile employ, we should soon outstrip every competitor, and render the British merchant as celebrated as the British valour, or the British power, which he, more than others, contributes to support. It is true, that trade stands so fair in the esteem of an Englishman, and promises so many occasions either for raising or improving a fortune, that many younger sons and brothers of peers are frequently bred up to, and embrace it; but then, they are too apt to quit it on succeeding to the dignities of their families, or to some publick employment, and withdraw those funds, which might otherwise be continued in it, both to their own and the nation's emolument ; whereas, was à contrary practice observed, and could many whose immense riches enable them) be persuaded to pursue their first beginnings, and destine part of their great effects to run into this channel, we should see commerce yet daily improve, and many more active professors shining at the head of it than we now do, a number of important enterprizes might be undertaken, and happily concluded, to the no small encrease both of publick and private interest: but it is an unhappiness (I mean in regard of traffick) that many gentlemen who have been enriched by it, or their inheritors, frequently withdraw from it, either to live in retirement, or, by an advancement to honours and posts, change the tranquil and pleasurable mercantile employ for the more troublesome, though splendid one, of grandeur and power; and notwithstanding such may, and undoubtedly often do, look down on their quondam business as de. rogatory and now beneath them, yet a prime minister of France, and several successive Grand Dukes of Tuscany (as mentioned in the preceding discourse), I should think might countenance any one's continuance in it, as they deemed it no disparagement to their high stations to be distinguished for their trade, as well as for their eminence and greatness. And, to shew how commerce is thought of by most foreigners, we may subjoin to the examples quoted of the regard paid to it, that many of the Italian princes are the principal merchants of their states, and think it no discredit to make their palaces serve as warehouses. Many of the kings of Asia, most of those on the coast of Africa and Guinea, traffick with the Europeans, either in person or by their ministers; so that, in reality, Spain is the only country I know of, where the mercantile employ is in disrepute; and there it is counted less ignoble and ungenerous to beg, than solicit a support, or improve a fortune by merchandizing. And, before I proceed to mention the laws in force concerning trade, I shall here describe their necessary qualifications, and give some few rules for their conduct, tending to secure them the success they aim at.

* The encouragement of commerce has always been a favourite object of the British legislature. In the time of King Athelstan, we find a very remarkable law, enacting, that any merchant who has made three yoyages upon his own account, beyond the British Channel or Narrow Seas, shall be entitled to the privilege of a thane. 11 Co. 876. Com's. Dig. Trade, a. 1. Bac. Ab. Merchant.

Previous to a man's engaging in a general trade, and becoming an universal dealer, Education he ought to treasure up such a fund of useful knowledge, as may enable him to carry scale

and qualiit on with ease to himself, and without risking such losses and disgusts, as great ill. a merchant. concerted undertakings will naturally expose him to; wherefore, to reduce this necessary science to a proper regulation, I shall recommend the following particulars to his acquirement; and, if his trade is more limited, his learning and knowledge may be so too.

U of

« PreviousContinue »