Chap. 8b: Conclusion on the Mercantile System

15 The same commodities which we gave bounties on importation from America were subjected to considerable duties when imported from other countries.

  • The interest of our American colonies was regarded as the same with Great Britain.
    • Their wealth was considered as our wealth.
    • It is said that whatever money was sent to them all came back to us by the balance of trade.
    • We could never become poorer by spending for them.
    • They were our own in every respect.
    • It was a spending on the improvement of our own property for the profitable employment of our own people.
  • It is unnecessary to say anything more about the folly of the mercantile system.
  • Had our American colonies really been a part of Great Britain, those bounties might have been considered as bounties on production.
    • It would still have been liable to the same objections as bounties on production.

16 The exportation of raw materials is sometimes discouraged by absolute prohibitions and sometimes by high duties.

The Ban On Wool Exportation

17 Our woollen manufacturers were more successful than other classes in persuading the legislature that the nation’s prosperity depended on the success of their business.

  • They obtained a monopoly against the consumers by an absolute prohibition of importing woollen cloths from any foreign country.
  • They obtained another monopoly against sheep farmers and wool growers by a prohibition on live sheep and wool exportation.
  • People complained of the severity of those laws for the security of their revenue.
  • They impose heavy penalties on innocent actions which were declared by the statutes to be crimes.
  • I affirm that the cruelest of our revenue laws are mild and gentle compared to laws which our merchants and manufacturers has extorted from the legislature to support their own absurd and oppressive monopolies.
    • Like the laws of Draco, these laws are all written in blood.

18 By the 8th of Elizabeth, chap. 3, the exporter of sheep, lambs, or rams would be punished:

  • For the first offence:
    • To forfeit all his goods forever
    • To suffer a year’s imprisonment
    • To have his left hand cut off in a market town on a market day to be there nailed up
  • For the second offence:
    • To be adjudged a felon
    • To suffer death accordingly
  • The object of this law was to prevent our sheep from being propagated in foreign countries.
  • By the 13th and 14th of Charles II. chap. 18. the exportation of wool was made felony.
    • The exporter was subjected to the same penalties and forfeitures as a felon.

19 For the honour of the national humanity, it is to be hoped that neither of these statutes were ever executed.

  • The first statute has never been directly repealed
  • Serjeant Hawkins seems to consider it as still in force.
    • It may however perhaps virtually repealed by the 12th of Charles II. chap. 32. sect. 3.
  • Without expressly taking away the penalties imposed by former statutes, it imposes a new penalty:
    • 20 shillings for every sheep exported or attempted to be exported
    • Forfeiture of the sheep and of the owner’s share of the ship.
  • The second statute was expressly repealed by the 7th and 8th of William III. chap. 28. sect. 4.
    • It declared:
      • The 13th and 14th of King Charles II made the exportation of wool a felony.
      • Its severe penalties, which were not executed, are repealed and made void by this act.

20 The penalties imposed by this milder statute or former penalties not repealed by this one, are still severe.

  • The exporter incurs the penalty of:
    • The forfeiture of the goods
    • 3 shillings for every pound weight of wool exported or attempted to be exported that is about four or five times the value.
    • Any person convicted is disabled from requiring any debt or account belonging to him from any other person.
  • The law means to ruin him completely, regardless of his fortune or whether he is able or unable to pay those penalties.
    • But the morals of the people are not yet so corrupt as the morals of the contrivers of this statute.
    • I have not heard this clause being executed.
  • If the person convicted of this offence is unable to pay the penalties within three months after judgment, he is to be transported for seven years.
  • If he returns before seven years, he is liable to the pains of felony, without benefit of clergy.
    • The owner of the ship, knowing this offence, forfeits all his ship and furniture.
    • The master and mariners, knowing this offence, forfeit all their goods and chattels.
    • They suffer three months imprisonment.
    • The master suffers six months imprisonment, by a subsequent statute.

21 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.
  • It can only be put in packs of leather or pack-cloth.
  • Those packs must be marked on the outside the words WOOL or YARN.
  • Those words must be in large letters not less than 3 inches long.

The penalty is:

  • The forfeiture of the wool and the package
  • 3 shillings for every pound weight to be paid by the owner or packer

It can only be loaded on any horse or cart or carried by land within five miles of the coast between sunrise and sunset.

  • The penalty is:
    • The forfeiture of the wool, packs, horses, and carriages.
    • The county next to the sea coast through which the wool is exported, forfeits 20 pounds if the wool is less than 10 pounds value.
      • If the wool is more than 10 pounds value, the forfeiture is triple that value with triple costs, to be sued for within the year.
    • The execution will be against any two of the inhabitants, whom the sessions must reimburse.
      • They will be reimbursed by assessing the other inhabitants, as in a robbery.
      • If any person compounds with the county for less than this penalty, he is to be imprisoned for five years.
        • Any other person may prosecute.
  • These regulations are in place in the whole kingdom.

22 But in Kent and Sussex, the restrictions are still more troublesome.

  • Every owner of wool within 10 miles of the sea-coast must give an account in writing, three days after shearing to the next officer of the customs regarding:
    • The number of his fleeces
    • The places where they are lodged
  • Before he removes the fleece, he must give notice of:
    • The number and weight of the fleeces
    • The name and abode of the person to whom they are sold
    • The place where they are intended to be carried
  • No person within 15 miles of the sea in Kent and Sussex can buy any wool before he enters into bond to the king that no part of the wool he shall buy shall be sold to any person within 15 miles of the sea.
  • If any wool is found without the such security, it is forfeited.
    • The offender also forfeits 3 shillings for every pound weight.
  • If any person lays any wool not entered as aforesaid within 15 miles of the sea, it must be seized and forfeited.
  • If after such seizure, any person claim the wool, he must give security to the Exchequer that if he is put on trial, he shall pay triple costs, besides all other penalties.

23 When such restrictions are imposed on the inland trade, the coasting trade cannot be left very free.

  • Anyone who carries wool to any port to be transported by sea to other ports must:
  • First create an entry to be made at the port where it will be sent from containing:
    • The weight
    • Marks
    • Number of the packages
  • This must be done before he brings the wool within five miles of that port.
  • The penalty is forfeiture of:
    • The wool
    • Horses, carts, and other carriages
    • Other forfeitures by other laws against wool exportation.
  • This law, however (1 Will. III. chap. 32), is so very indulgent to declare that:
    • This shall not hinder anyone from carrying his wool home from the place of shearing even if it is within five miles of the sea.
    • Provided that within 10 days after shearing and before he removes the wool, he certifies to the next officer of the customs:
      • The true number of fleeces
      • Where it is housed
    • He must not remove the wool without certifying to such officer his intention three days before.
    • Bond must be given that the wool to be carried coastways will be landed at the proper port.
    • If any part of it is landed without the presence of an officer, the penalty is:
      • The forfeiture of the wool
      • The additional penalty of 3 shillings for every pound weight

24 To justify their demand of such extraordinary restrictions, our woollen manufactures confidently asserted that English wool was superior to foreign wool.

  • Foreign wool could not be worked up into any tolerable manufacture.
  • Fine cloth could not be made without it.
  • England could monopolize the global woollen trade if English wool exportation could be totally prevented.
  • Having no rivals, she could then sell it at what price she pleased.
  • In a short time, England could have incredible wealth by the most advantageous balance of trade.
  • This doctrine is still believed by more people than the people who assert it.
  • This is believed by:
    • Those who are unacquainted with the woollen trade or
    • Those have not made particular enquiries
  • It is so perfectly false that English wool is necessary for making fine cloth.
    • English wool is unfit for fine cloth.
    • Fine cloth is made of Spanish wool.
    • English wool cannot even be mixed with Spanish wool without spoiling and degrading the fabric of the cloth.

25 It has been shown in this book, that these regulations depressed the price of English wool:

  • Below what it naturally would be at present
  • Very much below what it was in the time of Edward III.

The price of Scottish wool fell by about half after the union when it became subject to the same regulations.

  • Reverend John Smith is the very accurate and intelligent author of the Memoirs of Wool.
    • He observed that the price of the best English wool in England is below the selling price of a very inferior quality wool in the Amsterdam market.
    • Those regulations avowed to depress the price of English wool below its natural price.
      • They undoubtedly produced the desired effect.

26 It was observed in the foregoing part of this book that this price reduction must have very much reduced the annual wool produce.

  • It discouraged the growing of wool below what it probably would have been if it were allowed to rise to its natural price in a free market.
  • I believe that the annual quantity wool produce cannot have been much affected by these regulations.
  • The sheep farmer employs his stock not chiefly to grow wool.
    • He expects his profit more from the price of the carcass.
    • The ordinary price of the carcass must make up whatever deficiency in the ordinary price of the fleece.
  • Whatever regulations sink the price of wool or raw hides below natural must raise the price of meat in an improved and cultivated country.
    • The price of the cattle fed on improved and cultivated land must be sufficient to pay:
      • The rent of the landlord
      • The profit expected by the farmer
    • If it is not, they will soon cease to feed the cattle.
  • “Whatever part of this price is not paid by the wool and the hide must be paid by the carcass.”
    • “The less there is paid for the one, the more must be paid for the other.”
    • How this price is divided on the parts of the cattle is indifferent to the landlords and farmers, as long as it is all paid to them.
    • In an improved country, their interest as landlords and farmers cannot be much affected by such regulations.
      • Though their interest as consumers may be affected by the rise in the price of provisions.
  • According to this reasoning, this degradation in wool price is unlikely to lessen the annual produce of wool in an improved country.
    • It may diminish the demand and production of mutton by raising the price of mutton.
    • Its effect probably is not very considerable.

27 The effect of such regulations on the quantity of the wool produced annually was not very considerable.

  • However, its effect on the quality of wool must have been very great.
    • The degradation in the quality of English wool must have been in proportion to the degradation of price.
    • Its quality is currently below what is natural in the present state of improvement.
    • The quality of the wool depends on:
      • The breed
      • The pasture
      • The management and cleanliness of the sheep
    • The attention to these can never be greater than the recompense the price of the fleece will make for its labour and expence.
    • The goodness of the fleece and the carcass depends greatly on:
      • The health, growth, and bulk of the animal
    • In some respects, the improvement of the carcass is sufficient for the goodness of the fleece.
  • Despite the degradation of price, English wool has improved much during the present century.
    • The improvement might have been greater if the price had been better.
    • The lowness of price certainly has not prevented that improvement.

28 The violence of these regulations did not affect the quantity or quality of the annual wool produce as expected.

  • (I think it probably affected the quantity more than the quality)
  • The interest of the wool growers must have been hurt.
  • But on the whole, their interest was hurt much less than imagined.

29 These considerations will not justify the absolute prohibition of wool exportation.

  • But they will fully justify a tax on wool exportation.

30 To hurt the interest of any order of citizens to promote the interest of some other, is contrary to the justice and equality of treatment the sovereign owes to his subjects.

  • The prohibition certainly hurts the wool grower’s interest to promote the interest of the manufacturers.

31 “Every different order of citizens is bound to contribute to the support of the sovereign or commonwealth.”

  • A tax of 5 or 10 shillings on the exportation of every ton of wool would produce a very considerable revenue to the sovereign.
    • It would hurt the interest of the growers less than the prohibition on wool exports.
      • Because it probably would not lower the price of wool so much.
    • It would afford a sufficient advantage to the manufacturer.
      • Even though he might not be able buy his wool so cheap as under the prohibition.
      • He would still be able to buy his wool 5 or 10 shillings cheaper than any foreign manufacturer could buy it.
      • He would save the freight and insurance foreign manufacturers would need to pay.
    • It is impossible to devise a tax which could produce a considerable revenue to the sovereign while bringing so little inconveniency to anybody.

32 The prohibition does not prevent the exportation of wool.

  • “It is exported in great quantities.”
  • The great difference between the price at home and the price in the foreign market is such a temptation to smuggling.
    • All the rigour of the law cannot prevent it.
    • This illegal exportation is advantageous only to the smuggler.
  • A legal, taxed exportation will afford a revenue to the sovereign
    • It will save the imposition of other taxes which might be more burdensome and inconvenient.
    • It might be advantageous to all the subjects of the state.

33 Fuller’s earth or fuller’s clay is supposed to be necessary for preparing and cleansing woollen manufactures.

  • Its exportation was subjected to nearly the same penalties as wool exportation.
  • Tobacco-pipe clay is different from fuller’s clay but resembles it.
    • Because of their resemblance, fuller’s clay is sometimes exported as tobacco-pipe clay.
      • Tobacco-pipe clay has been given the same prohibitions and penalties.

34 By the 13th and 14th of Charles II. chap. 7. the exportation of raw hides and tanned leather was prohibited except in the shape of boots, shoes, or slippers.

  • This law gave a monopoly to our bootmakers and shoemakers against our graziers and our tanners.
  • By subsequent statutes, our tanners were exempted from this monopoly upon paying a small tax of one shilling on the hundred weight of tanned leather, weighing 112 pounds.
    • They obtained the drawback of 2/3 of the excise duties imposed on leather.
  • All leather manufactures may be exported duty free.
    • The exporter can get the drawback of the whole excise duties.
  • Our graziers are still subject to the old monopoly.
    • Graziers are separated from one another and dispersed throughout the country.
    • They cannot easily combine to:
      • Impose monopolies on others
      • Exempt themselves from monopolies imposed on them by others
    • All manufacturers can easily do so when collected together in great cities.
  • Even the horns of cattle are prohibited to be exported.
    • The insignificant trades of the horner and combmaker enjoy a monopoly against the graziers.

35 Restraints by prohibitions or by taxes on the exportation of goods which are not completely manufactured, are not peculiar to leather manufactures.

  • As long as any work remains to be done to fit any commodity for consumption, our manufacturers think that they themselves should do it.
  • “Woollen yarn and worsted are prohibited to be exported under the same penalties as wool.”
  • Even white cloths are subject to an export duty.
  • Our dyers have a monopoly against our clothiers.
    • Our clothiers probably would have been able to defend themselves against this monopoly.
    • But our principal clothiers are also dyers.
  • Cases and dial plates for clocks and watches are banned for export.
    • Our clock-makers and watch-makers want to keep the price of these materials low and away from foreign competition.

36 By some old statutes of Edward III., Henry VIII., and Edward VI., the exportation of all metals was banned.

  • Lead and tin were alone excepted probably because of their abundance.
  • To encourage mining, the 5th of William and Mary, chap. 17. exempted iron, copper, and mundic metal made from British ore from the prohibition.
  • The exportation of British and foreign copper bars was afterwards allowed by the 9th and 10th of William III., chap. 26.
  • The exportation of unmanufactured brass, gun metal, bell metal, and shroff metal, is still banned.
  • Brass manufactures may be exported duty free.

Words: 3000

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