Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Mun, Thomas

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MUN, THOMAS (1571–1641), economic writer, was the third son of John Mun, mercer, of St. Andrew Hubbard's in the city of London, whose father, John Mun of Hackney, appears to have held the office of provost of moneyers in the Royal Mint (Ruding, Annals of the Coinage, i. 104), and in 1562 received a grant of arms (Visitations of London and Middlesex, 1633-4). William Mun, an uncle of Thomas, and also a moneyer in the mint, died at Hackney in 1610. Thomas was baptised at St. Andrew Hubbard's, 17 June 1571. His father died in 1573 (will proved in P. C. C., Peter, 12), and his mother, Margaret (née Barwick), married in the following year Thomas Cordell, mercer, of St. Lawrence Jewry (afterwards a director of the East India Company), by whom Mun and his brothers seem to have been carefully brought up. Mun had two elder brothers: John Mun (1564-1615), a citizen and mercer of London, who died unmarried (will, P. C. C., Rudd, 66), and according to Stow's 'Survey' (1618 edit. p. 385), had a monument in Allhallows Staining Church; the other, Edward Mun, M.A. (1568-1603), was vicar of Stepney, rector of East Barnet, and sub-almoner to Queen Elizabeth (cf. Admin. Libr. Vic.-Gen. fol. 110a; Newcourt, Repert. Eccles. i. 740, 806; Hill and Frere, Memorials of Stepney Parish, 1890, pt. i. p. 33; F. C. Cass, East Barnet, pt. ii. 1892, pp. 216-19).

Thomas appears to have been early engaged in mercantile affairs in the Mediterranean, especially in Italy and the Levant. In his 'England's Treasure by Forraign Trade' (pp. 44-7) he describes as within his personal observation the growth of the port of Leghorn and the encouragement of commerce by Ferdinand I, grand duke of Tuscany (1587–1609). So great was Mun's credit that Ferdinand lent him forty thousand crowns, free of interest, for transmission to Turkey, where he was about to obtain merchandise for Italy. At p. 126 of the same work he states that 'he had lived long in Italy.' In 1612 (29 Dee.) Mun married at St. Mary's Woolchurch Haw, London, Ursula, daughter of John Malcott, esq., of Bedfordshire. He settled in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate. In July 1615, as a well-known merchant, he was elected a member of the committee or a director of the East India Company, and he spent his life in actively promoting its interests.

In 1621 Mun published 'A Discourse of Trade, from England unto the East Indies; answering to diverse Objections which are usually made against the same. By T. M.' The work, which is extremely rare, contains references to the events of 1612 (at p. 47) and 1620 (pp. 20, 38). But McCulloch (Lit. of Pol. Econ. pp. 98-9) vaguely and erroneously suggested that the first edition appeared in 1609. A second edition, described on the title-page as 'The Second impression, corrected and amended,' is, like the first, dated 1621. It was reprinted in Purchas's 'Pilgrimes' in 1625, and again in 1856 by the Political Economy Club, in a volume of reprints of early English tracts on commerce, with a preface by McCulloch.

In his book Mun fully describes and defends the transactions of the East India Company. Complaints had been made that the carrying abroad of coin, under the company's patent, caused scarcity of it in England; but Mun argued. that the exportation of specie was compatible with the due maintenance of an excess in the value of exports from this country over that of imports. The maintenance of that excess was an essential part of the currently accepted theory of the 'balance of trade.' The question of the alleged scarcity of coin was brought before parliament in 1621, and Mun appears to have submitted to the government statements entitled, in words which occur in his book, 'Reasons to p?rove that the trade from England unto the East Indies doth not consume, but rather increase the treasure of this kingdom' (see Cal. State Papers, Colon. Series, East Indies, 1617-21, 1023, pp. 431-2, and 1622-4, 155-8, pp. 68-9). In November 1621 Mun declined on private grounds a request of the court directors of the East India Company to proceed to India to inspect their factories.

In 1622 Edward Misselden [q. v.]—who was possibly a friend of Mun, for the families of both were connected with Hackney and the East India Company—attacked in his 'Free Trade' a proposal made by Gerard Malynes [q. v.] (Consuetudo, vel Lex Mercatorla) to regulate compulsorily the course of exchange, as a means of controlling the 'Balance of trade.' Malynes in his reply (Maintenance of Free Trade, 1622, p. 27) questioned the accuracy of Mun's published views. Misselden in return defended Mun in 'The Circle of Commerce,' 1623; and (pp. 36-7) remarked of him that 'his observation of the East India trade, his judgement in all trade, his diligence at home, his experience abroad, have adorn'd him with such endowments, as are rather to bee wisht in all, then easie to bee found in many Merchants of these times.' Malynes, in another treatise, 'The Centre of the Circle of Commerce,' 1623, again assailed Misselden and Mun (pp. 102-3). Mun in his posthumously published 'England's Treasure by Forraign Trade' exhaustively analysed and opposed Malynes's theories on exchanges (chaps. xii-xiv.)

In March 1624 Mun declined to serve as deputy-governor of the East India Company, but remained a member of the committee till his death (cf. 'Court Minute-books of the Company' in Cal. State Papers, Colonial). In 1628 the company, embarrassed by the encroachments of the Dutch on their trade, invoked the protection of the House of Commons, and for 'The Petition and Remonstrance of the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading to the East Indies,' Mun, 'the ablest of the early advocates of the East India Company,' was mainly responsible. Many of its sentences and arguments he afterwards introduced verbatim into his 'England's Treasure.' The petition was reprinted in 1641, and was then addressed to both houses of parliament.

Mun's second book, his 'England's Treasure by Forraign Trade, or the Ballance of our Forraign Trade is the Rule of our Treasure,' was probably written about 1630, but it was not printed till 1664—some twenty-three years after his death, when it was 'published for the Common good by his son John.' In it Mun more energetically and formally than before defined the doctrine of the balance of trade.' The ordinary means to encrease our wealth and treasure is,' he wrote (p. 11), 'by Forraign Trade, wherein wee must ever observe this rule: to sell more to strangers yearly than we consume of theirs in value.' Interesting reference is made by Mun to the customs revenue in its relation to English trade to India and other countries; and he shows much acquaintance with the operations of the mint, where his grandfather and uncle had been employed. In showing 'how the Revenues and Incomes of Princes may be justly raised,' he describes (pp. 157-9) the position of monarchs' who have no just cause to lay extraordinary and heavy taxes upon their Subjects'—an apparent reference to the illegal exactions of Charles I. At pp. 165-6 he maintains that 'when more treasure must be raised than can be received by the ordinary taxes, it ought ever to be done with equality to avoid the hate of the people, who are never pleased except their contributions be granted by general consent: for which purpose the invention of Parliaments is an excellent policie of Government.'

In chapter xix. he deplores the neglect of the English fishing trade and the encroachments thereon by the Dutch, denounces his countrymen's habits of 'besotting themselves with pipe and pot' (p. 179), refers with approval (p. 186) to Captain Robert Hitchcock, author of 'A Political Plat for the Honour of the Prince' (1580), and to Tobias Gentleman [q. v.], author of 'England's Way to win Wealth,' (1614); and (p. 188) alludes to Grotius's 'Mare Liberum,' in questioning the right of the Dutch 'to fish in His Majesties Seas.'

Mun amassed great wealth as a merchant, and, besides inheriting lands at Mereworth, &c., in Kent, acquired the estate of Otteridge, at Bearsted, in the same county (Hasted, ii. 488). In May 1640, when a forced loan of 200,000l. was demanded by Charles I of the city of London, to assist him in his war in Scotland, he was reported, in the aldermen's returns to the privy council, as able to lend money to the king (cf. Return, ed. W. J. Harvey, 1886), but the citizens finally refused the loan. Mun died in 1641 at the age of seventy, and was buried in the chancel of his parish church, St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, on 21 July. His widow, Ursula, was buried there 11 Sept. 1655. His will was proved in P. C. C., Evelyn, 92. A stone monument mentioned in the register of St. Helen's has disappeared.

His son John, in his dedication of his father's 'Forralgn Trade' (1664) to Thomas, earl of Southampton, lord high treasurer, described Mun as 'in his time famous among Merchants, and well known to most men of business, for his general Experience in Affairs, and notable Insight into Trade; neither was he less observed for his Integrity to his Prince, and Zeal to the Common-wealth.' 'England's Treasure by Forraign Trade' reached its 2nd edit. in 1669; the era in 1698; the 4th in 1700, printed in one volume with Lewis Roberts's 'Merchant's Map of Commerce;' the 5th in 1713, at the time of the treaty of Utrecht; the 6th in 1755. The title of this hook ('England's Treasure by Forraign Trade') became, in Adam Smith's words, 'a fundamental maxim in the political economy not of England only, but of all other commercial countries.' It gave Mun his claim to the title of founder of the mercantile system of political economy (Hallam; cf. article 'Primitive Political Economy of England' in Edinburgh Review for April 1847). Mun's writings are quoted in Roger Coke's 'Discourse of Trade,' 1670, p. 37, where he is called 'a man of excellent knowledge and experience in Trade;' and in the same author's 'Treatise wherein is demonstrated that the Church and State of England are in equal danger with the Trade of it,' 1671, pp. 72, 75; they are also cited in two anonymous treatises on trade, viz. England's Great Happiness, or a Dialogue beween Content and Complaint' (1677), and 'Britannia Languens' (1680), both of which were reprinted in the collection published by the Political Economy Club in 1856; as well as in Nicholas Barbon's 'Discourse of Trade,' 1690, Preface.

Mun had, besides his son John, two daughters: Anne (1613-1687), who married in 1639 Sir Robert Austen, bart., of Hall Place, Bexley, and high sheriff of Kent, on whose monument in Bexley Church the political economist is mentioned as 'Thomas Muns, Esq., Merchant' (Halsted, i. 161, and Thorpe, Reg. Roffense, p. 925) (their eldest son, Sir John Austen, was a commissioner of customs in 1697-9); and Mary (1618-1685), who married Edward Napper, merchant, of Allhallows, Lombard Street, London, of the ancient family of the Nappers or Napiers of Puncknoll, Dorset (Hutchins, Dorset, i. 560-4).

The son, John Mun (1615-1670), appears to have been admitted a member of the Mercers' Company in 1632; inherited Otteridge, in Bearsted, and in 1659 purchased Aldington Court, in the adjoining parish of Thurnham (Halsted, ii. 497); and was buried at Bearsted 30 Nov. 1670 (will, P. C. C., Duke, 146). He had by hls wife Elizabeth (d. 1695) daughter of Walter Harlackenden of Woodchurch and Hollingborne, Kent (Top. and Gen., i. 231-2, iii. 215-23), eight children. The eldest, Thomas Mun (d. 1692), inherited Snailham in Icklesham, Sussex (Horsfield, i. 473), was M.P. for Hastings in the last parliament of Charles II, held at Oxford in 1681, and again in the Convention parliament, 1689 (ib., ii. App. pp. 60, 63; Oldfield, Representative History, v. 375, 880). As one of the barons of the Cinque ports he also represented Hastings at the coronations of James II, 1685, and of William and Mary, 1689 (Sussex Arch. Coll. xv. 193, 209). In May 1689 he, with the Hon. Sir Vere Fane, K.B. (afterwards fourth earl of Westmorland, of Mereworth Castle, Kent), and John Farthing, esq., petitioned the king for an improvement in the management of the excise (Redington, Calendars of Treasury Papers, 1556-7-1696, iii. 41, iv. 47, v. 69). Thomas Mun, M.P., was buried at Bearsted 15 Feb. 1691-2 (will, P. C. C., Fane, 58). He had eleven children, one of whom, Vere Mun, M.A. (1678-1736), vicar of Bodiam, Sussex, was doubtless named after the father's friend, Vere Fane (Horsfield, i. 524; will, P. C. C., Derby, 225).

[Anderson's History of Commerce, 1764 edit. ii. 3, 4, 7, 14, 41, 123-4; Postlethwayt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce, 1766, art. ‘Balance of Trade;’ Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, 1828 edit. vol. i. introd. disc. pp. xiv-xviii, xxiii, xxv, xxvii, and vol. ii. 242, 246; Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, 1805, ii. 297-300, 320, 367; Grant's Sketch of the History of the East India Company, 1813, pp. 19-20, 33, 45-7; Blanqui's Hist. de l'Économie Politique en Europe, 1837, ii. 17, 408; McCulloch's Dict. of Commerce, art. ‘East India Company,’ and Literature of Polit. Econ. 1845, pp. 38-9, 98-99; Hallam's Introduction to the Literature of Europe, 1847 edit. ii. 530, iii. 451-2;. Edinb. Review, vol. lxxxv. April 1847, p. 426-52; Dict. de l'Écon. Polit. (Guillaumin), 1853, art. by J. Garnier, p. 258; Fox-Bourne's English Merchants, 1866, i. 297-8; Larousse's Dict. Universel du XIXme Siècle, xi. 686; W. Noel Sainsbury's Calendars of State Papers, Colonial Series (East Indies), 1513-1616, 1617-21, 1622-4, 1625-9, 1630-4; the Rev. F. Haslewood's Benenden, 1889, pp. 205, 209; Athenæum, 29 Nov. and 20 Dec. 1890, pp. 738, 853-4; Sir G. Birdwood's Report on the Old Records of the India Office, 1891, pp. 22, 213; Marshall's Principles of Economics, 1891, i. 52 n.; Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce in Modern Times, 1892, pp. 128, 212, 266.]

A. L. H.