Morrell, Hugh (DNB00)
|←Morphett, John||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39
MORRELL, HUGH (d. 1664 ?), merchant, descended from a family well known for their ' designs for the improvement of cloth and all woollen manufactures,' was probably a native of Exeter. In 1623 he was engaged in the export trade to France, and about the same time he and Peter du Boys proposed to James I a scheme for the improvement of commerce, probably by the establishment in every town of corporations to regulate the woollen manufactures. For this purpose he obtained a patent for Hertfordshire in 1624, and for Devonshire in 1626. He and his 'predecessors' had already spent ' much labour and 3,000l.' in the promotion of a similar object at Worcester. His plans were commended by thirty-one London merchants to whom they were submitted.
Some time before this Morrell had been established at Rouen in partnership with Charles Snelling, merchant, of London. In 1627 their goods, to the value of 7,600l., were confiscated by the French in reprisal for goods seized by English ships at Conquett. Their fortunes ruined, and even their lives threatened, Morrell and Snelling were obliged to escape from France. They petitioned the king (June 1627) for satisfaction out of the profits on the sale of the French prizes, or by abatement of customs duties in their favour. Their claims were referred to Sir Henry Martin and Philip Burlamachi, who reported that their losses ought to be made good. It was proposed shortly afterwards to reimburse them out of the produce of an additional duty of three farthings per chaldron on coal exported from Newcastle, and the attorney-general was instructed to prepare a warrant for this purpose. The scheme, however, does not appear to have been carried into effect, owing probably to the opposition of the farmers of the coal duties, and as late as 1641 Morrell and Snelling had not received satisfaction.
On 9 Oct. 1633 Morrell, as agent and representative of the 'merchants of Exeter trading to France,' presented to the council a petition on their behalf, in which they desired the removal of their trade from Rouen and Morlaix to Havre, and the appointment of an English consul. In the following month he was chosen, along with Spicer, their governor, to represent the company at a conference (19 Nov.) with the 'merchants of London trading to France,' when articles of agreement were drawn up between the two associations. On 5 Dec. 1642 he was appointed one of the surveyors of the customs at Dover and the western ports.
Meanwhile Morrell had not abandoned his scheme for the reorganisation of the woollen trade. A committee of merchants recommended it to parliament in 1638, and shortly afterwards Morrell ' presented an instrument to his Majestie under the Broad Seale of England, in which much labour, care, and pains was taken to settle a government in our manufactures' (Morrell to Lenthall, 11 Jan. 1646-7, Portland MSS. i. 405). Charles I referred the scheme to a commission of thirty of the most experienced merchants of London, who spent eighteen months in the examina-
tion of the principal clothiers of the kingdom, and agreed upon a report, presented to the commons (March 1640) by Matthew Cradock. No further progress was made for seven years. Morrell then suggested the appointment of a commission of merchants or ' councell for trade ... to whome overtures will be more freely presented, tendinge to the publike good, then they dare to doe to the parliament' (ib.) Among the subjects he proposed for consideration by the com- mission were the means by which England might be made 'the magazine of Christendom ;' the foundation of a bank similar to the Bank of Amsterdam ; the removal of the greater part of the duties on manufactures and the customs on wool imported, and the establishment of a merchants' court.
In 1650 Morrell was employed by parliament in commercial negotiations with France, but he appears to have exceeded his powers, for on 9 Dec. he was requested 'not to presume ... to offer anything to the crown of France on behalf of the Commonwealth, nor to intermeddle concerning affairs of state, but to keep himself to the solicitation of merchants' affairs' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1653, xi. 112). His services, however, were retained, and he lived in Paris until the Restoration. He died probably about 1664.
[Authorities quoted and Thurloe's State Papers, ii. 61, iii. 444, iv. 525, 670, 692, 693; Calendars of State Papers Dom. 1623-62 passim; Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Eep. p. 178, 4th Kep. p. 313, llth Eep. pt. iv. pp. 25, 41, pt. vii. p. 291.]