The History of British Commerce/Volume 1/Chapter 6
FROM THE ACCESSION OF HENRY VII. TO THE END OF THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH. A.D. 1485—1603.
The present period was an age of great revolutions and remarkable progress in the commerce and general industry, not only of this country, but of the world. But in England especially the sixteenth century is distinguished from the fifteenth almost as the day is from the night, in respect to the activity and advancement of the nation in every field of exertion and enterprise where those accumulated results are to be achieved that constitute civilization.
The encouragement of the trade of the kingdom, being an object in which he saw much profit to himself as well as to his subjects, engaged much of the attention of Henry VII. during his whole reign. It cannot, however, be said that this sagacious king was much beyond his age in some of the notions on which he proceeded in this matter. His general views may be considered to be explained in the speech which his minister, Cardinal Morton, addressed, as Lord Chancellor, to the parliament which met in November, 1487. After having expressed his majesty's anxious desire to restore peace and order to his kingdom by good and wholesome laws,—by which alone, he observed, sedition and rebellion were to be truly put down, and not by the blood shed in the field or by the marshal's sword,—the eloquent chancellor went on;—"And, because it is the king's desire that this peace, wherein he hopeth to govern and maintain you, do not bear only unto you leaves for you to sit under the shade of them in safety, but also should bear you fruit of riches, wealth, and plenty, therefore his grace prays you to take into consideration matter of trade, as also the manufactures of the kingdom, and to repress the bastard and barren employment of moneys to usury and unlawful exchanges, that they may be, as their natural use is, turned upon commerce and lawful and royal trading." That is to say, commerce was to be promoted by the destruction of credit; for a chief branch of commercial credit is the lending and borrowing of money on interest, which is what is here called usury. The next of the cardinal's recommendations also partook of the twilight views of the time,—a twilight, however, which the space of three centuries and a half that has since elapsed has not wholly dissipated. After calling upon them to take measures that the "people be set on work in arts and handicrafts, that the realm may subsist more of itself; that idleness be avoided, and the draining out of our treasure for foreign manufactures stopped;" he continued:—"But you are not to rest here only, but to provide further that whatsoever merchandise shall be brought in from beyond the seas may be employed upon the commodities of this land, whereby the kingdom's stock of treasure may be sure to be kept from being diminished by any overtrading of the foreigner." So that the old system of encouraging foreign trade by shutting out foreign merchants and foreign commodities was still the only plan that was thought of, and the sole end and design of all commercial intercourse with other nations was held to be, to take produce and manufactures out of the country and to bring gold into it.
The conclusion of the chancellor's oration is worth quoting for its curious argument, intended to prove how the country would enrich itself by making the king as rich as possible. "And, lastly," said Morton, " because the king is well assured that you would not have him poor that wishes you rich, he doubteth but that you will have care as well to maintain his revenues of customs and all other natures, as also to supply him with your loving aids, if the case shall so require. The rather for that you know the king is a good husband, and but a steward, in effect, for the public; and that what comes from you is but as moisture drawn from the earth, which gathers into a cloudy and falls back upon the earth again." All this, too, however (only substituting the government for the king, who in that age was the whole government), is still the faith of many people in our own day, when the spark of truth that lies in the heart of the error, and has kept it so long alive, is hardly so considerable a particle as it was in the circumstances in which Cardinal Morton propounded his ingenious metaphor. The economical evil of a large diversion of the public wealth into the hands of the government is not that the money so paid over is absorbed or lost to the public, as if it were buried in the ground or thrown into the sea; in so far at least as it is expended in the country, which nearly all of it usually is, it does undoubtedly descend again to the sources from which it was drawn, as the moisture that rises from the earth in vapour falls back upon it in showers. The objection is, not that any part of it is absolutely lost to the country, but that, as expended by the government, it is not expended so advantageously for the interests of industry and production as it would have been if it had been left in the pockets of the people. There is nothing lost; but there is not so much gained in the one case as there would have been in the other. The reproduction is less; the accumulation of the capital of the community does not go on so fast. However, there may perhaps be a state of circumstances in which it is for the general advantage that a portion of the public wealth should be impelled by force in a certain direction, for the sake of forming and maintaining somewhere a larger reservoir of capital than would otherwise anywhere exist: the general rule may be that capital should be allowed to diffuse itself freely, because in that way the increase will, upon the whole, be the largest; but there may be an exception for the case of an early society, which would labour under the disadvantage of having no capital but what was distributed in driblets unless some system of artificial drainage were put in action to collect a number of the puny rivulets into one efficient stream. Even the rapacity of a king or a government, whatever counterbalancing evils it may be attended with, may in some sort answer this purpose; and Cardinal Morton's metaphoric logic, therefore, though not the whole truth, in regard to Henry VII. with his riches being but a cloud made for the refreshment of his people, was not perhaps without a smack of reason as well as of poetry.
Agreeably to the spirit of one of the chancellor's commercial principles, the parliament now passed an act against usury (3 Henry VII. c. 6), that is, against all lending of money on interest, and took much pains to provide against the various ways in which attempts were likely to be made to evade the prohibition. The punishment for offenders was the annulment of the usurious bargain, and a fine of a hundred pounds—"reserving to the church," it was added, "this punishment notwithstanding, the correction of their souls according to the laws of the same." The objection to usury was in its origin purely a religious feeling, derived from the general antipathy to the Jews, the great money-dealers of the middle ages.
In another of the acts of the parliament of 1487-8 passed for annulling an ordinance of the lord mayor and aldermen of London, prohibiting any of the citizens from resorting with their goods to any fair or market out of the city, there occurs incidentally an enumeration of the principal places where fairs were then held throughout the country, and also of the articles sold at them. The London ordinances, if allowed to stand good, the Commons represent to his Majesty, "shall be to the utter destruction of all other fairs and markets within this your realm, which God defend [forbid]; for there be many fairs for the common weal of your said liege people, as at Salisbury, Bristow, Oxenforth, Cambridge, Nottingham, Ely, Coventry, and at many other places, where lords spiritual and temporal, abbots, priors, knights, squires, gentlemen, and your said commons of every country, hath their common resort to buy and purvey many things that be good and profitable, as ornaments of holy church, chalices, books, vestments, and other ornaments for holy church aforesaid; and also for household, as victual for the time of Lent, and other stuff', as linen cloth, woollen cloth, brass, pewter, bedding, osmund, iron, flax, and wax, and many other necessary things, the which might not be forborne among your liege people." At this time most purchases, except of articles of daily consumption, were probably made at these markets periodically held in the great towns. The act attests the commercial preeminence which London had now acquired, the country markets, it appears, being principally dependent for their supplies upon the resort to them of the dealers from the capital.
Of several commercial treaties made with foreign countries in the reign of Henry VII., we may notice one that was concluded with Denmark in 1490, being an extension of one that had been entered into the preceding year. Among other regulations it was provided by this compact that the English should freely enjoy for ever the property of all the lands and tenements they possessed at Bergen in Norway, Lunden and Landscrone in Schonen, Dragor in Zealand, and Loysa in Sweden. At all these places, therefore, there were English residents and commercial establishments. The English settlers in each of these towns, and wherever else there might be any, were to have full liberty, according to custom, to erect themselves into societies, and to elect one of their number as governor or alderman to administer justice among them according to laws agreed upon among themselves, the Danish government engaging to support his authority. On the other hand, there is no mention of any privileges to be enjoyed by subjects of Denmark resident in England, from which we may conclude that there were no Danes settled here. It also appears that all the trade between the two countries was carried on in English vessels. The only commodities specified in the treaty are woollen cloths brought from England, and fish purchased in Denmark, though mention is made of other merchandise in general terms.
Another important treaty of the same kind was made the same year with the republic of Florence, which also contains some things deserving of notice. In 1485 Richard III. had, on the application of some English merchants who proposed engaging in the trade to Pisa, appointed a Florentine merchant to be governor of his subjects who might become resident in that city, or what we should now call English consul there; and from that date in all probability is to be counted the commencement of the trade to Florence in English vessels. From the present treaty it appears that such a trade was now fairly established; and the English settled at Pisa are also spoken of in such terms as should seem to show that they already formed a considerable community. They were to have a right to hire or otherwise procure houses for their residence, and to form themselves into a corporate body, with a governor and other officers according to their own regulations; and were not only to enjoy all the privileges enjoyed by the citizens of Pisa or of Florence, but were even to be exempted from municipal taxation in all parts of the state except in Florence. For these advantages, it is true, they were to pay a good price; for it was stipulated by this treaty—which was to last for six years—both that the English should every year bring as much wool to Florence as had on an average been used to be brought, and that no wool should be allowed to be exported by foreigners from any part of the English dominions, except six hundred sacks annually by the Venetians. The treaty, therefore, secured to the Florentines as much English wool as they required, and of course at no higher prices than they had been accustomed to pay, unless their own demand should become an increasing one—for, with neither a rise in the demand nor a falling off in the supply, there could be no rise in the price; and it also tended to reduce the price of wool in the English market by checking the purchase of it by all other foreigners. This latter regulation, however, was also of the nature of a monopoly granted to the English shipowner—though at the expense of his fellow-country-man, the sheepowner.
The affair of Perkin Warbeck, and the encouragement given to that adventurer by the Duchess Dowager of Burgundy, had the effect of interrupting for some years of this reign the most important branch of the foreign commerce of England—the trade with the Netherlands. Henry first, in 1493, banished all the Flemings out of England, and ordered all intercourse between the two countries to cease; on which the Archduke Philip, the sovereign of the Netherlands, expelled in like manner all the English subjects resident in his dominions. This state of things continued for nearly three years, when the interruption of trade "began," says Bacon, "to pinch the merchants of both nations very sore, which moved them by all means they could devise to affect and dispose their sovereigns respectively to open the intercourse again. Wherein time favoured them; for the archduke and his council began to see that Perkin would prove but a runagate and a citizen of the world, and that it was the part of children to fall out about babies. And the king, on his part, after the attempts upon Kent and Northumberland, began to have the business of Perkin in less estimation, so as he did not put it to account in any consultation of state. But that that moved him most was, that, being a king that loved wealth and treasure, he could not endure to have trade sick, nor any obstruction to continue in the gate-ein which disperseth that blood." At last, commissioners from both sides met at London, and soon arranged a treaty for the renewal of the trade. "After the intercourse thus restored," adds the historian, "the English merchants came again to their mansion at Antwerp, where they were received with procession and great joy." All the while that the stoppage lasted, the merchant adventurers, he says, "being a strong company at that time, and well under-set with rich men, did hold out bravely; taking off the commodities of the kingdom, though they lay dead upon their hands for want of vent." This they must have done out of a patriotic zeal in the support of the government, or perhaps they may have been in some measure forced by the urgent solicitations or threats of the king to incur the loss they did. The treaty made upon this occasion with the Flemings was distinguished by the name of the "Intercursus Magnus," or great treaty.
The merchant adventurers here spoken of by Bacon appear to have been the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, an association which can be traced back nearly to the beginning of the fourteenth century, and which a few years after this time (in 1505) was incorporated by royal charter under the title of the Merchant Adventurers of England. Presuming perhaps upon the aid they had afforded to the crown on this occasion, these London merchants appear to have now made an attempt to take possession of the whole foreign trade of the country, by asserting a right to prevent any private adventurers from resorting to a foreign market without their licence. This gave occasion to the passing of an act of parliament in 1497 (the 12th Henry VII. c. 6), which affords a general view of the foreign commerce of England at that date, as stated in the petition, which the preamble recites, of the merchant adventurers inhabiting and dwelling in divers parts of the realm out of the city of London. The petitioners represent that they had been wont till of late to have free course and recourse with their merchandises into Spain, Portugal, Britany, Ireland, Normandy, France, Seville, Venice, Dantzic, Eastland, Friesland, "and other divers and many places, regions, and countries, being in league and amity with the king our sovereign lord," where in their sales and purchases every one used freely to proceed in the manner he deemed most for his individual advantage, "without exaction, fine, imposition, or contribution to be had or taken of them, or any of them, to, for, or by any English person or persons;" and in like manner they had till now been used to have free passage and resort "to the coasts of Flanders, Holland, Zealand, Brabant, and other places thereto nigh adjoining, under the obeisance of the Archduke of Burgoyne (or Burgundy), in which places the universal marts be commonly kept and holden four times in the year, to which marts all Englishmen and divers other nations in time past have used to resort, there to sell and utter the commodities of their countries, and freely to buy again such thing's as seemed them most necessary and expedient for their profit and the weal of the country and parts that they be come from." Now, however, "the fellowship of the mercers and other merchants and adventurers dwelling and being free within the city of London," had made an ordinance and constitution that no Englishman resorting to the said marts should either buy or sell any goods or merchandises there, unless he first compounded and made fine with the said fellowship of merchants of London at their pleasure, upon pain of forfeiture of the goods so by him bought or sold; "which fine, imposition, and exaction," the petition goes on, "at the beginning, when it was first taken, was demanded by colour of a fraternity of St. Thomas of Canterbury, at which time the said fine was but the value of half an old noble sterling (3s. 4d.), and so by colour of such feigned holiness it hath be suffered to be taken for a few years past; and afterward it was increased to a hundred shillings Flemish; and now it is so that the said fellowship and merchants of London take of every Englishman or young merchant being there, at his first coming, twenty pounds sterling for a fine, to suffer him to buy and sell his own proper goods, wares, and merchandises that he hath there." It is asserted that the effect of this imposition had been to make all merchants not belonging to the London company withdraw themselves from the foreign marts, whereby the woollen cloth, which was one of the great commodities of the realm, "by making whereof the king's true subjects be put in occupation, and the poor people have most universally their living," and also other commodities produced in different parts of the kingdom, were not disposed of as formerly, "but, for lack of utterance of the same in divers parts where such cloths be made, they be conveyed to London, where they be sold far under the price that they be worth, and that they cost to the makers of the same, and at some time they be lent to long days, and the money thereof at divers times never paid." On the other hand, foreign commodities, the importation of which was now wholly in the hands of the London company, were sold at so high a price that the buyer of the same could not live thereupon—that is to say, could not retail them at a living profit. "By reason whereof," the petition concludes, "all the cities, towns, and boroughs of this realm in effect be fallen into great poverty, ruin, and decay; and now in manner they be without hope of comfort or relief, and the king's customs and subsidies and the navy of the land greatly decreased and minished, and daily they be like more and more to decay, if due reformation be not had in this behalf," Although, however, the act seems to adopt this representation as correct, it does not go the length of putting down the privilege claimed by the London company: the company, it would appear, was too formidable for that; all that was done, therefore, was to limit the fine they should be entitled to exact for the future to the moderate amount of ten marks, or 6l. 13s. 4d. To that extent the act sanctioned the hitherto doubtful and disputed pretensions of the London merchant adventurers, and gave them so far a legal right of control over the whole foreign trade of the country. We shall find that the powers which they thus acquired formed a fertile source of controversy and contention for ages afterwards.
An act of parliament made in 1504, to regulate the importation of foreign silk (19 Hen, VII., c. 21), indicates what branches of the silk manufacture were now established in England, by prohibiting all persons for the future from bringing into the realm to be sold "any manner of silk wrought by itself, or with any other stuff, in any place out of this realm, in ribbons, laces, girdles, corses, cauls, corses of tissues, or points." All these articles of knit silk, "the people of England," as Bacon expresses it, "could then well skill to make." But the importation of "all other manner of silks" was freely permitted; "for that the realm," observes Bacon, "had of them no manufacture in use at that time." The historian praises this law as having the stamp of the king's wisdom and policy; and it "pointed," he says, "at a true principle, that, where foreign materials are but superfluities, foreign manufactures should be prohibited; for that will either banish the superfluity or gain the manufacture." But where would be the harm of having the superfluity, even without the manufacture? The superfluity could not be brought from abroad without the money to purchase it being acquired by some species of industry or other exercised within the realm. For the encouragement of the national industry, therefore, the acquisition of the superfluity by purchase comes to the same thing with its acquisition by the introduction of the manufacture. From the title of this act, "For Silkwomen," it may be inferred that the trifling branches of the silk manufacture, consisting merely of knitting, that had as yet been introduced into England were exclusively in the hands of females.
In January, 1506, the Archduke Philip, sailing from Flanders to Spain with his wife, now, by the death of her mother, become Queen of Castile, was driven by stress of weather into Weymouth, and found himself at once the guest and the prisoner of the English king. On this occasion a treaty was wrung by Henry from the captive sovereign of the Netherlands which was called by the Flemings the Intercursus Malus, or evil treaty, by way of contrast with "the great treaty" of 1496. The terms of the new arrangement, however, are now of no interest; it is sufficient to state that they were somewhat more favourable to the English merchant than those of the former treaty.
A sort of charter of indemnity granted to certain Venetian merchants by Henry in 1507, with the view of screening them, it is conjectured, from prosecutions to which they had exposed themselves by the advantage they had taken of previous illegal grants made to them by the king, is preserved in Rymer, and may be noticed as containing an enumeration of the principal foreign nations then carrying on trade with and in this country. The Venetians are authorised to buy and sell, for ten years to come, at London and elsewhere, in England, Ireland, and Calais, woollen cloth, lead, tin, leather, &c., with the English, Genoese, Venetians, Florentines, Luccans, Spaniards, Portuguese, Flemings, Hollanders, Brabanters, Burgundians, German Hanseatics, Lombards, and Easterlings, and all other foreigners. The Scots and French are omitted in this list, probably because there were no merchants of those nations resident in England, though some trade was, no doubt, carried on with both.
A document of the following year, found in the same repository, affords us a list of what were then accounted the wealthiest and most important cities and towns in England—the security for the marriage portion of two hundred and fifty thousand gold crowns to be paid with Henry's daughter Mary, when it was proposed to marry her to the Emperor Maximilian's grandson, Charles (afterwards the Emperor Charles V.). On this occasion the towns that became bound for Henry's performance of his engagement were, London, Coventry, Norwich, Chester, Worcester, Exeter, York, Bristol, Southampton, Boston, Hull, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The short space of time comprehended in the reign of Henry VII. of England is memorable for the two greatest events in the history of nautical discovery and of modern commerce,—the achievement of the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope, and the revelation of the new world of America by the voyage of Columbus. Both these great discoveries were made in the search after the same object, a route to India by sea, which serves in some degree to account for the two having been so nearly coincident in point of time. Bartholomew Diaz returned to Portugal from the voyage in which he had rounded the southern extremity of Africa in December, 1487. Some years before this date, however, Columbus had conceived his more brilliant idea of reaching the oriental world by sailing towards the west; a course which, on his conviction of the earth's rotundity, he calculated would bring him to the eastern confines of the same golden continent the western parts of which were gained by proceeding in the opposite direction. Among the various states and crowned heads to which the illustrious Genoese proposed the glory of his great enterprise before he found a patroness in Isabella of Spain, one was our Henry VII., to whom he sent his brother Bartholomew in 1488. In his passage to England, Bartholomew was captured by pirates, plundered of everything, and made a slave. After some time he made his escape, and reached this country, but in such a state of destitution that he was obliged to apply himself to drawing sea-charts for a livelihood, and for the means of procuring himself decent clothes, before he could appear in the royal presence. King Henry so far listened to his proposals as to desire him to bring his brother to England; and he was on his way to Spain for that purpose, when, on reaching Paris, he learned that Columbus had already set out on his voyage under the patronage of the Spanish court. The capture of Bartholomew by pirates, it is remarked by the historian of our commerce, "thus turned out, under the direction of Providence, the means of preserving the English from losing their industry and commercial spirit in the mines of Mexico and Peru." Columbus sailed on his memorable voyage, from the bar of Saltes, near Palos, in Andalusia, on Friday, the 3rd of August, 1492, and reached the island of San Salvador on the 12th of October. He afterwards discovered Cuba, Hispaniola, and others of the West Indian islands: and on the 15th of March, 1493, he again landed at Palos, bringing back to the astonished nations of Europe the tidings of his success, in having reached what he continued to believe to his dying day to be the eastern shore of the Indies—for it as not till twenty years after this time, and seven years after the original discoverer of the new world had been laid in his grave, that the Pacific was first seen from the mountains near Panama by Balboa. On the 25th of September, 1493, Columbus sailed from Cadiz on his second voyage, from which he returned to the same port on the 11th of June, 1496, after having discovered the Caribbee Islands, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica.
Meanwhile, the spirit of enterprise in the new direction thus pointed out had spread among the navigators and governments of other countries; and on the 5th of March, in this last-mentioned year, the King of England granted a patent to John Cabot, or Gabotto, a Venetian, then settled at Bristol, and to his three sons, Lewis, Sebastian, and Sanches, authorising them to navigate the eastern, western, and northern seas, under the English flag, with five ships, and as many men as they should judge proper, at their own sole costs and charges, to discover the countries of gentiles or infidels, in whatever part of the world situated, which had hitherto been unknown to all Christians; "with power to them, or any of them," continued the patent, "to set up our banners in any town, castle, island, or continent, of the countries so to be discovered by them; and such of the said towns, castles, or islands, so found out and subdued by them, to occupy and possess, as our vassals, governors, lieutenants, and deputies; the dominion, title, and jurisdiction thereof, and of the terra firma or continent so found out, remaining to us." Henry characteristically added a provision to the effect, that, out of the profits of their discoveries under this charter, the Cabots should be obliged to pay to him, after each voyage, one-fifth part, either in merchandise or in money. He is, therefore, entitled to very little credit for having promoted this expedition, in regard to which he merely interfered to secure to himself the lion's share in the results, without having contributed anything to the expense of the outfit. The Cabots—at least the father and his second son, Sebastian, the most scientific and enterprising of the family, although at this time only in his nineteenth year—sailed from Bristol in the beginning of May, 1497, in a ship of their own, called the Matthew; "with whom," according to Bacon, "ventured also three small ships of London merchants, fraught with some gross and slight wares, fit for commerce with barbarous people." On the 24th of June, they discovered what they supposed to be an island, but what appears to have been the coast of Labrador, in about latitude 56°. From this point they are said to have sailed northwards—in the hope of finding a passage to India or China—as far as latitude 67½°. Then, from an entry under date of 10th August, 1497, in the privy-purse expenses of Henry VII., of a donation of 10l., "to him that found the new isle," it is conjectured that the Cabots immediately returned to England. To the country they had discovered they gave the name of Prima Vista (First View), which, however, it soon lost, having been since successively called Corterealis, from Gaspar Cortereal, a Portuguese, who fell in with the same coast in 1500; Estotiland, from its having been supposed to be the country so denominated in the (possibly fabulous) account of the voyage of the Zeni, about 1350; New France, after Canada was taken possession of and settled by the French; New Britain, by the English after their discoveries, in the early part of the seventeenth century, along the coasts of Hudson's Bay; and by the Portuguese Labrador, or Tierra di Labrador, said to be a corruption of Laborador (labour), from some traces of cultivation which the part of the coast they first saw seemed to present.
Sebastian Cabot appears to have made two more voyages in the two following years, in the second of which, taking a course declining towards the south, he reached the Gulf of Mexico. Columbus also, on the 30th of May, 1498, sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda, on his third voyage, in which he discovered the island of Trinidad and the country adjacent to the mouths of the Orinoco—his first view of the American continent, the northern coast of which, as we have just seen, had been reached about a year before by the Cabots. And contemporaneously with these voyages towards the west, by the Spanish and English navigators, those of Portugal were prosecuting the passage towards the east around the extremity of Africa, which had been laid open by Bartholomew Diaz. On the 8th of July, 1497, Vasco de Gama sailed from the Tagus on the first voyage by that route to India, the western coast of which, at Calicut, in Malabar, he reached on the 22nd of May, 1498. Gania returned to Lisbon in September, 1499. Finally, in the following year, 1500, the coast of Brazil was accidentally discovered, by the Portuguese admiral, Pedro Alvarez de Cabral, being driven upon it by a storm, while following the course of Gama to Calicut, at the head of a fleet of thirteen ships, carrying a force to effect a settlement in Malabar—a circumstance, as has been remarked, which shows that America, even if Columbus had never existed, could not possibly have long remained concealed after the Portuguese began to navigate the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Bacon states that, besides the patent to the Cabots, Henry, "again, in the sixteenth year of his reign (1500), and likewise in the eighteenth (1502), granted forth new commissions for the discovery and investing of unknown lands." The commission of 1500 has not been preserved; but that of 1502 is in Rymer, and it refers to the former as having been granted to Hugh Elliot and Thomas Ashurst, merchants of Bristol; to John Gunsalus and Francis Fernandus, natives of Portugal; and also to Richard Ward, John Thomas, and John Fernandus. In the second licence the three last names are left out. In other respects the licence is nearly of the same tenor with that granted some years before to the Cabots, except that it forbids the adventurers to concern themselves with or to offer to molest such heathen and infidel countries as were already discovered and reduced to the obedience of the King of Portugal, or of any other prince the friend or ally of the king. This was all the respect that Henry chose to pay to the famous award of Pope Alexander VI. in 1493, by which, drawing a line from pole to pole through the middle of the Atlantic and the southern continent of the new world, he bestowed all the countries that should be discovered to the west of that boundary on the King of Spain, and all those to the east of it on the King of Portugal. None of these expeditions of discovery, however, patronised (if that term can be used) by Henry, were attended with any success—the natural consequence of the parsimony which made him refuse all pecuniary assistance to the adventurers, who were all apparently as ill able as projectors usually are to prosecute their ingenious schemes from their own resources. This very wary king was not to be induced to spend his money even in taking possession of a new country when it was discovered for him; no attempt seems to have been made to turn to account the discovery of North America by the Cabots; and, as for the other adventurers he afterwards sent forth, none of them is recorded to have ever caught a glimpse of anything new in the shape of either continent or isle.
The more easy intercourse opened with India, by the discovery of the passage round the Cape of Good Hope, produced almost immediately considerable changes in the current of European commerce. The Venetians, bringing home the spices and other productions of the East by land carriage, soon found themselves unable to compete with their rivals, the Portuguese, now enjoying the advantage of the much cheaper conveyance by sea; and Lisbon became what Venice had been—the great source of the supply of these commodities, and the resort of traders from every part of Europe. The Lisbon merchants also carried the productions of India in so much larger quantities than had ever before been known to the great intermediate mart of Antwerp, that the wealth and grandeur of the latter city also may be said to have commenced with this date. The reduction of price so prodigiously extended the consumption of these commodities all over Europe, that they now formed one of the chief branches of the Antwerp trade. The Italian historian of the Low Countries, Ludovico Guicciardini, writing not long after the middle of the sixteenth century, calculates that the value of the spices alone brought to Antwerp from Lisbon exceeded a million of crowns yearly. Tempted by the new trade, many German and other foreign merchants came to settle at Antwerp, and to contribute to its rising fortunes the aid of their resources and enterprise.
Marked effects, also, were not long in beginning to flow from the discovery of America and the West Indies. Herrera, the historian of the Spanish Indies, relates that, a few years after the commencement of the sixteenth century, the gold brought home by the Spaniards from Hispaniola amounted annually to about 460,000 pieces of eight, or above 100,000l. sterling. This, however, was an influx of wealth which did not tend to invigorate the nation that received it, or to give life to its industry, like that gathered by the busy hand of commerce. But the import of the cotton, sugar, ginger, and other productions of her West Indian possessions, also created a new branch of trade which Spain monopolised, and which gave employment to a considerable quantity of shipping.
In the benefit of all these new channels, along which the productions of distant parts of the earth were made to flow towards Europe, the English, though they had not yet embarked in the trade either to the cast or to the west, could not fail indirectly to share. Accordingly, we find our historians testifying to the decided augmentation of the wealth of the country, and the more general diffusion of luxuries among all classes, in the course of the reign of Henry VII. Some of them, indeed, ascribe the improvement chiefly, or in great part, to the active encouragement given by that king to commercial enterprise. "This good prince," says Hall, the chronicler, "by his high policy, marvellously enriched his realm and himself, and left his subjects in high wealth and prosperity, as is apparent by the great abundance of gold and silver yearly brought into the realm, in plate, money, and bullion, by merchants passing and repassing, to whom the king, of his own goods, lent money largely, without any gain or profit, to the intent that merchandise, being of all crafts the chief art, and to all men both most profitable and necessary, might be the more plentifuller used, haunted, and employed in his realms and dominions." The latter part of this statement (which is translated from Polydore Virgil) may warrant some scepticism; but it is possible that, seeing the taking of interest was forbidden by the law, Henry may have sometimes advanced money, on good security, to assist in adventures, of which he was merely to have his corresponding share in the profits.
The increase of the foreign trade of the country, and of the wealth of the people and their command over the conveniences and luxuries of life, proceeded at an accelerated rate during the early part of the next reign. Of this there are various indications both in the notices of the chroniclers and in the pages of the Statute-book. An act, for instance, of 1512 (4 Henry VIII. c. 6), for regulating the sealing or stamping at the Custom-house of cloths of gold and silver, of "bawdekin," velvet, damask, satin, sarcenet, "tartron," camblet, and every other cloth of silk and gold brought from beyond the seas, incidentally mentions that it was not unusual for 3000 or 4000 pieces of these fabrics to be brought over in one ship. Most of the artificers of the more costly description of articles, and also many of the persons who traded in these and other commodities, appear still to have been foreigners settled in England; and from the details that are given of a great insurrection of the native Londoners on May-day, 1517, against these strangers, we have some curious particulars of the branches of industry then carried on in the capital. The popular complaints against the foreigners were, according to Hall, "that there were such numbers of them employed as artificers that the English merchants had little to do by reason the merchant strangers bring in all silks, cloths of gold, wine, oil, iron, &c., that no man almost buyeth of an Englishman; they also export so much wool, tin, and lead, that English adventurers can have no living; that foreigners compass the city round about, in Southwark, Westminster, Temple Bar, Holborn, St. Martin's [Le Grand], St. John's Street, Aldgate, Tower Hill, and St. Catherine's; and they forestall the market, so that no good thing for them cometh to the market; which are the causes that Englishmen want and starve, whilst foreigners live in abundance and pleasure." The importation of various articles from abroad, that interfered with home produce and manufactures, was also loudly cried out against; the Dutchmen in particular, it was asserted, brought over "iron, timber, and leather, ready manufactured, and nails, locks, baskets, cupboards, stools, tables, chests, girdles, saddles, and painted cloths." This proved a very serious tumult. Its chief instigator was one John Lincoln, styled a broker, by whom a Dr. Bell, a canon of the Spital, was prevailed upon in the first instance to read from the pulpit at the Spital, upon the Tuesday in Easter week, a bill or written detail of the popular grievances, and to follow up that text with a sermon, well adapted to blow the feelings it had kindled into a blaze. " Cœlum cœli Domino," he began, ' terram autem dedit filiis hominum:"—"the heavens to the Lord of heaven, but the earth he hath given to the children of men." "And then he showed," says the chronicler, "how this land was given to Englishmen; and, as birds defend their nests, so ought Englishinen to cherish and maintain themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens, for respect of their commonwealth." It now began to be whispered about that, on the coming 1st of May, there was to be a general massacre of the foreigners; in terror of which, many of the latter left the city. On this coming to the cars of the council, Wolsey sent for the lord mayor on May-eve, and ordered him to take measures to preserve the peace; whereupon a meeting of the aldermen was held; and, about half-past eight, each sent to his ward directing that no man after nine o'clock should stir out of his house, but keep his doors shut, and his servants within, until nine o'clock in the morning. "After this command was given in the evening," proceeds the account, "as Sir John Mundy, Alderman, came from his ward, he found two young men in Cheap, playing at the bucklers, and a great many young men looking on them—for the command seemed to be scarcely published. He ordered them to leave off; and because one of them asked 'Why?' he would have them sent to the Compter. But the prentices resisted the alderman, taking the young man from him, and cried, 'Prentices! Prentices! Clubs! Clubs!' Then out of every door came clubs and other weapons, so that the Alderman was put to flight. Then more people came out of every quarter, and forth came serving-men, watermen, courtiers, and others; so that by eleven o'clock there were in Cheap six or seven hundred; and out of St. Paul's churchyard came about three hundred." Then, while the rioters continued to receive accessions from all quarters, they proceeded to the Compter and Newgate, broke open both prisons, and took out some persons that had been committed for attacks on foreigners during the preceding few days. The mayor and sheriffs to no purpose made proclamation in the king's name; the mob soon fell from breaking open the prisons to plundering private houses, especially those of foreigners, and seeking for the owners, none of whom however they found, to strike off their heads. But at last, towards three o'clock in the morning, they began to return home, and then about three hundred of them were intercepted by the authorities, and sent to the Tower, Newgate, and the Compters. In the height of the disturbance matters had looked so serious that Sir Roger Cholmeley, the Lieutenant of the Tower, had thought it necessary to fire off several pieces of ordnance against the city, which, however, did not do much damage. A few days after a number of the rioters were brought to trial, and, being found guilty, were condemned to be drawn, hanged, and quartered; "for execution whereof ten pairs of gallows were set up in divers parts of the city, as at Aldgate, Blanchapleton, Grass-street, Leadenhall, before each of the Compters, at Newgate, St. Martin's, at Aldersgate, and Bishopgate and these gallows were set upon wheels, to be removed from street to street, and from door to door, as the prisoners were to be executed." But, in the end, only Lincoln suffered; he was hanged on the 7th of May at the standard in Cheapside. About a fortnight after a general pardon was granted to the rest by the king, and the citizens were again received into favour; "though, as it is thought," concludes the chronicler, "not without paying a considerable sum of money to the cardinal [Wolsey] to stand their friend; for at that time he was in such power that he did all with the king." This day was long remembered in London under the name of "Evil May-day;" and it is recorded that the ancient Mayings and May games, with the triumpHant setting up of the great shaft in Leadenhall-street before the church of St. Andrew, were never afterwards so commonly used as had been customary before.
In connexion with this affair we may mention an act of parliament, which was passed in 1525 (14 and 15 Hen. VIII. c. 2), for regulating the taking of apprentices by "strangers born out of the king's obeisance using any manner of handicraft within the realm." No such stranger, it was enacted, should in future, under a penalty of 10l. for each offence, take any apprentice who was not a native of the country, or should keep any more than two foreign journeymen at the same time. By a subsequent clause, also, all aliens exercising any handicraft in London or the suburbs were placed each under the superintendence—or "the search and reformation," as it is expressed—of the fellowship of his particular craft in the city of London, to which was to be associated for that purpose one alien householder of the same craft, to be chosen by the wardens of the company; and every such foreign artificer, being a smith, joiner, or cooper, was to receive a proper mark from his craft, which he was to stamp upon every article he fabricated. This clause is curious as giving us a list of the places that were then considered to form the suburbs of London; which are enumerated as being, besides the town of Westminster, the parishes of St. Martin's in the Field, of our Lady of the Strand, of St. Clement of Danes without Temple Bar, of St. Giles in the Field, and of St. Andrew's in Holborn, the town and borough of Southwark, Shoreditch, Whitechapel parish, St, John's-street, the parish of Clerkenwell, St. Botolph's parish without Aldgate, St. Catherine's, and Bermondsey-street. Most of these places, all of which are now included within the metropolis, were then separated from the city by fields, gardens, or other open spaces.
Some indications of a disposition on the part of the English to engage in the new branches of foreign trade, which had sprung out of the late nautical discoveries, begin about this time to present themselves. According to Lord Herbert, a proposition was even made, in 1527, by the Emperor Charles V., to sell to King Henry a right, which he pretended to have as King of Spain, to the Molucca Islands, which, however, came to nothing. The same year, also, this author tells us, the English king "sent out two fair ships to discover new regions, then daily found out by the Portuguese and Spaniard;" but in this attempt he met with no greater success than his father. It appears, moreover, from a passage in Hakluyt's Collection, that some merchants of Bristol had now for some years been in the habit of exporting cloth, soap, and other commodities to the Canary Islands, by means of the ships of San Lucar in Spain, and of receiving back by the same conveyance dyeing drugs, sugar, and kid-skins. But the chief branch of the foreign commerce of the country still continued to be the trade with the Netherlands, where, at the great emporium of Antwerp, the English merchants both found purchasers for their native produce and manufactures of all kinds, and were enabled to supply themselves in return with whatever quantities they required of the productions of all parts of the globe. Accordingly, the apprehended interruption of this trade on Henry's declaration of war against the emperor, in 1528, threatened to derange the whole system of the national industry. "Our merchants," says Lord Herbert, " (who used not the trade to the many northern and remote countries they now frequent), foreseeing the consequences of these wars, refused to buy the cloths that were brought to Blackwell Hall, in London; whereupon the clothiers, spinners, and carders, in many shires of England, began to mutiny." To appease this clamour of the manufacturing population, Wolsey issued his commands to the merchants that they should take the cloths at a reasonable price from the poor men's hands, with a threat that, if they did not, the king himself should buy them and sell them to foreigners. This procedure may let us into the secret of the means by which, in the quarrel with the government of the Netherlands in the last reign, the merchants of London were induced, as related in a preceding page, during the three years that the quarrel lasted, to continue their chases in the home-market, notwithstanding the stoppage of the usual great vent of exportation. On that occasion the interests of peace were forced to give m ay to those of war; but it was different now. "The sullen merchants," Lord Herbert goes on to inform us, little moved with the cardinal's menaces, said they had no reason to buy commodities they knew not how to utter. Propositions were thrown out for the establishment of a new continental mart at Calais or Abbeville; but the "sullen merchants" would not understand any of these schemes. At last the council, being advised with, told the king "that the resultance of war in the Low Countries could be nothing but a grievance to his subjects, a decay of trade, a diminution of his customs, and addition to the greatness of Francis, who would have the advantage of all that was undertaken in this kind;" on which it was resolved that the war should be suspended for the present. This result shows very strikingly how completely its foreign commerce was now become part of the very life-blood of the nation; and it should also seem to warrant the inference that the trade with Antwerp had considerably risen in importance within the last thirty years,—the consequence, doubtless, in great part, of the general commercial revolution that had been wrought by the discovery of the new route to the East.
The spirit of mercantile adventure in England, however, was now turning likewise to other quarters, though its excursions out of its accustomed track were still somewhat timid or desultory. Among the notices collected by the industrious Hakluyt are the following:—About 1530 Captain William Hawkins, of Plymouth, made a trading voyage to Guinea for elephants' teeth, &c., and thence proceeded to Brazil, where he also traded. Two years after he is noted to have made another such voyage to Brazil. Trading voyages, both to Brazil and Guinea, became common soon after this date. From about 1511 to 1534 divers tall ships of London, Southampton, and Bristol, carried on an unusually great trade to Sicily, Candia, and Chio, and sometimes to Cyprus, to Tripoli, and to Barutti in Syria. Their exports were woollen cloths, calf-skins, &c.; their imports silks, camblets, rhubarb, malmsey, muscadel and other wines, oils, cotton-wool, Turkey carpets, galls, and Indian spices. One of these voyages up the Mediterranean usually occupied a whole year, and was accounted exceedingly difficult and dangerous. Sundry foreign vessels, such as Candiots, Ragusans, Sicilians, Genoese, Venetian galleasses, and Spanish and Portuguese ships, were also employed by the English merchants in this trade.
An important act of parliament affecting commercial transactions was passed in 1546, the last year of this reign (stat. 37 Hen. VIII. c. 9), which, although entitled "An Act against Usury," in fact repealed all the old laws against lending and borrowing money on interest, and allowed interest to be taken at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum. The preamble recites that the former statutes against usury have "been so obscure and dark in sentences, words, and terms, and upon the same so many doubts, ambiguities, and questions have risen and grown, and the same acts, statutes, and laws been of so little force and effect, that by reason thereof little or no punishment hath ensued to the offenders of the same, but rather hath encouraged them to use the same." It is most certain, indeed, that no law could prevent the taking of interest, which did not put down the lending of money altogether.
A few notices that have been preserved relating to the shipping of the early part of the sixteenth century may here be introduced. The royal navy of England, properly so called, takes its rise from the reign of Henry VlII. At first Henry possessed only one ship of war of his own, the Great Harry; to which a second was added by the capture from the Scottish captain, Andrew Barton, of his ship called the Lion, in June, 1511,—an incident which led, two years after, to the war between the two kingdoms, the battle of Flodden, and the death of James IV. The next year, 1512, Henry built another ship at Woolwich, the Regent, weighing 1000 tons, and described as the greatest ship that had yet been seen in England. From an indenture drawn up between the king and his admiral, Sir Edward Howard, for the victualling of the fleet fitted out this year to aid in the war against France, it appears that the Regent was to carry 700 soldiers, mariners, and gunners. A ship apparently still larger than this, however, is described as having been sent to sea this same year by the Scottish king in a fleet which he equipped for the assistance of France, but which was, in a storm, scattered and destroyed on its way to that country. This Scottish ship, called the Great Michael, the largest that had been built in modern times, was 240 feet in length by 56 in breadth,—dimensions, however, which, in the latter direction especially, were materially diminished by the thickness of the planking, which, that it might be proof against shot, was not less than 10 feet. She carried 35 guns (all on the upper deck), besides 300 smaller pieces of artillery called culverins, double-dogs, &c.; and her complement consisted, besides officers, of 300 seamen, 120 gunners, and 1000 soldiers. But Henry did not satisfy himself with merely building ships; he laid the necessary foundations for the permanent maintenance of a naval force by the institution of the first Navy Office, with commissioners, or principal officers of the navy, as they were styled, for the superintendence of that particular department of the public service. He also established by royal charter, in the fourth year of his reign, the "Corporation of the Trinity House of Deptford," for examining, licensing, and regulating pilots, and for ordering and directing the erection of beacons and lighthouses, the placing of buoys, &c.; to which he afterwards added subordinate establishments of the same kind at Hull and Newcastle. The navy-yards and storehouses at Woolwich and Deptford also owe their origin to this king; who has a very good right, therefore, to the title of the creator of the English navy. Henry's great ship, the Regent, was blown up, with the 700 men on board of her, in a battle fought with the French fleet off Brest, a few months after she put to sea; on which he caused another, still larger, to be built, which he called the Henry Grace de Dieu. Several others were afterwards added, so that, at the close of the reign, the entire navy belonging to the crown amounted to about 12,500 tons. Henry, also, about 1525, erected at a great expense the first pier at Dover; and in 1531 an act of parliament was passed (23 Hen. VIII. c. 8) "for the amending and maintenance" of the havens and ports of Plymouth, Dartmouth, Tinmouth, Falmouth, and Fowey. In the preamble it is asserted that these ports had been, in time past, the principal and most commodious havens within the realm for the preservation of ships resorting from all parts of the world, as well in peril of storms as otherwise; but that, whereas formerly ships of 800 tons might easily enter them at low water, "and there lie in surety, what wind or tempest soever did blow," they were now in a manner utterly decayed and destroyed by means of certain tin-works, called stream-works, which had so choked them up that a ship of 100 tons could "scantly enter at the half-flood." The act, however, did not provide for the "amending" of the harbours further than by prohibiting the working of such stream-works, except under certain specified regulations, for the future.
The latter part of this reign is marked by the commencement of a course of public improvements intimately connected with the internal trade of the country—the reparation of streets and highways. The first act in the Statute-Book on this important subject is the 14 and 15 Hen. VIII. c. 6, passed in 1523, authorising the proprietor of the manor of Hempstead, in the weald of Kent, to enclose an "old common way or street for carriages, and all other passages and business," on laying out another at the least as broad and as commodious in a different line; and also, "in consideration that many other common ways in the said weald of Kent be so deep and noyous by wearing and course of water and other occasions, that people cannot have their carriages or passages by horses upon or by the same, but to their great pains, peril, and jeopardy," permitting all other persons that might be so disposed, to lay out new and more commodious roads, by oversight and assent of two justices of peace of the county, and twelve other discreet men inhabiting within the hundred or the hundred adjoining. In 1534, by the 26 Hen. VIII. c. 7, this act was extended to the county of Sussex. About the same time began the paving of the streets of London, the first act for that purpose being the statute 24 Hen. VIII, c. 11, passed in 1532-3, "for paving of the highway between the Strand Cross and Charing Cross,"—that is, the greater part of the line of way now known as the Strand, the Strand Cross having stood at the church of St. Clement Danes. But this road was hardly as yet accounted one of the streets of the metropolis; it was rather a country road leading to the village of Charing, with many houses, indeed, built on both sides of it, but yet with the line of building everywhere broken by fields and gardens. This "common highway" is described in the preamble of the act as ' "very noyous and foul, and in many places thereof very jeopardous" to all people passing and repassing, "as well on horseback as on foot, both in winter and in summer, by night and by day;" the occasion of which is affirmed to be that "the landlords and owners of all the lands and tenements next adjoining, on both sides of the said common highway, be and have been remiss and negligent, and also refuse and will not make and support the said highway with paving every of them alter the portion of his ground adjoining to the same." It appears that the part of the Strand between the church of St. Clement Danes and Temple Bar was already paved; and the act directs that the owners of lands adjoining to the rest of the road shall each pave in the same manner the part lying along his lands or tenements as far as to the middle; which it is declared will be "a great comfort," not only to all the king's subjects thereabouts dwelling, but also to all others that way passing and repassing, especially to all persons coming and going between the city and the town of Westminster about the deeds of the laws there kept in the term season. The following year another act (25 Hen. VIII. c. 8) was passed for the repaving of Holborn. This street is described as being the common passage for all carriages carried from west and north-west parts of the realm, and as having been, till of late, so well and substantially paved that people had good and sure passage through it; but now, proceeds the complaint of the inhabitants to the king, recited in the preamble of the act, "for lack of renewing of the said paving by the landlords, which dwell not within the city, the way is so noyous and so full of sloughs and other incumbrances, that oftentimes many of your subjects riding through the said street and way be in jeopardy of hurt, and have almost perished." A similar enactment is thereupon made to that in the statute for paving the Strand; and a general power is given to the mayor and aldermen to see the pavements maintained upon the same principle in all the streets of the city and suburbs, and also of the borough of Southwark. Yet a few years after this, in 1540, we find a new act (the 32 Hen. VIII. c. 17) directing the repavement of part of Holborn and various other streets, which are described as still "very foul and full of pits and sloughs, very perilous and noyous, as well for all the king's subjects through and by them repairing and passing, as well on horseback as on foot, as also with carriage." These streets were—1. The causeway or highway leading from Aldgate to Whitechapel Church: 2. The causeway from the bridge at Holborn Bars "unto the end of High Holborn westwards as far as any habitation or dwelling is on both the sides of the same street:" 3. Chancery-lane, "from the bars besides the Rolls late made and set up by the Lord Privy Seal unto the said highway in Holborn:" 4. Gray's Inn lane, " from Holborn Bars northward as far as any habitation is there:" 5. Shoe-lane: and 6. Fewter (now Fetter) lane: the two last being described as "thoroughfares and passages from Fleet-street into Holborn within the liberties of the city of London." This appears to have been the first time that Holborn was paved to the west of the city bars; nor was the street all built on both sides for any considerable way beyond that point till many years later. With regard to the general state of the roads in the country about this date we have little or no information; but we may be certain that the condition of the best of them, as was the case long afterwards, was wretched enough. It appears, however, from the diplomatic correspondence of the time, that, towards the end of the reign of Henry Vlll., letters were conveyed by the government expresses from London to Edinburgh in about four days.
Sebastian Cabot, the discoverer, with his father, of North America, on finding himself neglected by Henry VII., had entered the service of the Spanish government in 1512, but appears to have returned to his native country soon after the death of King Ferdinand in 1516. He is known to have been employed by Henry VIII., in 1517, in conjunction with a Sir Thomas Perte, to make another attempt in quest of a north-west passage, in the course of which he is said to have again reached the latitude of 67½°, and to have entered Hudson's Bay, and given English names to sundry places on its coasts. These discoveries, however, were soon forgotten, like those which their author had made in the same regions twenty years before; and Cabot again offered his services to the government of Spain, by which he was for some years employed in various distinguished capacities. He remained abroad till the accession of Edward VI., and then, in 1548, once more made his appearance at the English court, where he was received with much welcome by the young king. In the beginning of the following year Edward bestowed upon him a pension of 250 marks (166l. 13s.. 4d.), which he enjoyed during the rest of the reign: and he continued to be consulted in all affairs relating to navigation and trade. In 1553, on the suggestion of Cabot, some merchants of London formed themselves into a company, of which he was chosen the governor, for the prosecution of maritime discovery, with a particular view to the anxiously desired passage by the northern seas to China and the other countries of the East. Three vessels were forthwith sent out, under the command of Sir Hugh Willoughby, to whom Cabot gave a paper of remarkably judicious instructions, and King Edward letters addressed to all kings and princes, requesting their friendship. One of the ships is stated to have been sheathed with thin plates of lead, a contrivance which is spoken of as a new invention. Willoughby, after having reached the 72nd degree of north latitude, took refuge for the winter in a harbour in Russian Lapland, where he and the crews of two of his ships, seventy in number, were frozen to death; but the third ship, commanded by Richard Chancellor, found its way into the White Sea, then entirely unknown to the English, though a correct description of it had been given to Alfred by Ohthere more than 600 years before. Chancellor landed near Archangel, from whence he travelled on sledges to Moscow, and there obtained from the Czar, John Basilowitz, letters for King Edward, and valuable trading privileges for his employers. This was the origin of the English Russia Company, which was incorporated the next year by a charter from Queen Mary, and soon became a very flourishing and important association. Its affairs appear to have continued, at least for three or four years, to be superintended by Cabot, its originator, of whom, however, the last thing recorded is, that in 1557 the half of his pension was given to another person, to whom, at the same time, all his maps and papers were delivered over, lie probably died within a year or two after this date.
Cabot's first voyage, in 1497, may possibly have given rise to another branch of trade, which was now carried on to some extent—the cod-fishery of Newfoundland. In 1517 there are said to have been about fifty Spanish, French, and Portuguese ships engaged in this fishery; but the first attempt of the English to obtain a share of the trade was not made till 1536. From an act of parliament passed in 1542 (the 33rd Hen. VIII. c.2), it appears that fish were then commonly imported to England from Newfoundland, or New-land, as it is called in the act, as well as from Iceland, Scotland, the Orkneys, Shetland, and Ireland, and also from the Flemings, the Zealanders, the people of Picardy, and the Normans; from all of whom, however, the act directs that no more fresh fish should be brought, sturgeon, porpoise, and seal excepted, on the alleged ground of many disastrous consequences that followed to the towns by the sea-side in the counties of Kent and Sussex, and to the whole commonwealth, from the fishermen of the said towns abandoning their proper craft, and, instead of filling their boats from their own nets, purchasing the commodity from the fishermen of the opposite coasts. The growing importance of the Newfoundland fishery is attested by an act passed in 1548 (the 2nd and 3rd Edw. VI. c. 6), by which it is enacted, that, whereas for a few years past there had been levied by the officers of the Admiralty, from merchants and fishermen resorting to Iceland, Newfoundland, Ireland, and other places commodious for fishing, "divers great exactions, as sums of money, doles or shares of fish, and other like things, to the great discouragement and hindrance of the same merchants and fishermen, and no little damage to the whole common-weal," all such exactions should henceforth cease.
We are probably to reckon among the religious reforms of the reign of Edward VI., an act which was passed in 1552 (5 and 6 Edw. VI. c. 20), under the title of "A Bill against Usury." In this statute it is declared that the law of the late reign, allowing the taking of interest upon money lent to the amount of ten per cent., "was not meant or intended for maintenance or allowance of usury, as divers persons blinded with inordinate love of themselves have and yet do mistake the same, but rather was made and intended against all sorts and kinds of usury as a thing unlawful; and yet, nevertheless, the same was by the said act permitted for the avoiding of a more ill and inconvenience that before that time was used and exercised." "But, forasmuch," it is added, "as usury is by the word of God utterly prohibited, as a vice most odious and detestable, as in divers places of the Holy Scripture it is evident to be seen, which thing by no godly teachings and persuasions can sink into the hearts of divers greedy, uncharitable, and covetous persons of this realm, nor yet, by any terrible threatenings of God's wrath and vengeance, that justly hangeth over this realm for the great and open usury therein daily used and practised, they will forsake such filthy gain and lucre, unless some temporal punishment be provided and ordained in that behalf;" it is enacted that the late statute be "utterly abrogate, void, and repealed," and that whoever shall henceforth lend any sum of money "for any manner of usury, increase, lucre, gain, or interest, to be had, received, or hoped for," over and above the sum so lent, shall forfeit the money, and shall besides suffer imprisonment, and make fine and ransom, at the king's will and pleasure. The subsequent history of this act is very instructive. Like all attempts to force back or turn aside by statute the natural and ordinary course of human transactions, it wholly failed in accomplishing its object; and, like all laws that so aim at effecting what is impracticable, it only added to the evil it was designed to cure. Accordingly, after nearly twenty years trial of how it worked, we find the legislature, in 1571, declaring, in a new act (the 13th Eliz. c. 8), that "it hath not done so much good as it was hoped it should, but rather the vice of usury hath much more exceedingly abounded." The new statute, therefore, repeals the said act of Edward VI., and revives the act of Henry VIII., allowing interest at ten per cent. And such continued to be the law throughout the remainder of the present period. Yet, strangely and absurdly enough, this act of 1571 is also entitled "An Act against Usury," touching the iniquity of which it actually sermonises in the usual phraseology at the very moment of permitting and legalising it. The tenor of the principal enacting clause is as follows:—"And, forasmuch as all usury, being forbidden by the law of God, is sin, and detestable," be it enacted that all exaction of usury or interest, above the rate of ten per cent., shall be punished by the forfeiture of the whole sum so exacted. It would require dexterous casuistry to demonstrate that, if to take interest at eleven per cent. was a detestable sin, to take interest at ten per cent. was allowable. If there was to be a law against usury at all, however, the penalty here denounced against the said detestable sin was certainly not of objectionable severity, even with the addition made by a subsequent clause, that offenders against the act might be further punished and corrected in the spiritual court. But that provision, in fact, merely went to restrain the spiritual court from proceeding against usury when it did not exceed ten per cent., and was really therefore protective, and not penal.
The most important measure that was taken in relation to the foreign trade of the country by the government of Edward VI. was the abolition of the privileges of the Steelyard Company. We have in the two preceding Chapters given an account of the rise and nature of this famous association of the German or Hanseatic merchants resident in England, and have brought down their history to the treaty of Edward IV. with the Hanse Towns, in 1475. Since that date various causes, and especially the new direction given to European commerce by the discovery of the route by sea to India, had very greatly reduced the eminence of that once powerful confederacy. Antwerp had now far distanced Lubeck, and Hamburgh, and Dantzic, in the race of commercial activity and prosperity; other trading associations had arisen in various countries, to share what was once almost the monopoly of the Hanseatic League; and, as order and good government had become everywhere better established, even individual merchants, in many cases, carried on their operations as successfully as any company. In England, however, the Hanse merchants of the Steelyard, from the privileges which they enjoyed under their ancient charters and more recent treaties, continued almost to monopolise certain branches of trade in which they were exempted from duties payable by other traders, and from their superior combination and capital were even sometimes enabled to engage in other branches with such advantages as nearly precluded all competition. Thus, on the stoppage of the direct trade with the Netherlands, in 1493, it is recorded that great quantities of Flemish manufactures were still imported into England by the merchants of the Steelyard from their own Hanse towns; and that this activity of the foreigners, in a trade from which they were themselves excluded, so enraged the native merchants that they incited the London journeymen and apprentices to rise in a tumult, in which they attacked and rifled the warehouses of the obnoxious Germans. In 1505, when Henry VII. granted a charter of incorporation to the Company of Merchant Adventurers of England, whose proper business was described to be to trade in woollen cloth of all kinds to the Netherlands, the merchants of the Steelyard, or Easterlings, as they were called, were express]y prohibited from interfering with that branch of commerce; and the aldermen or governors of the association were obliged to enter into a recognisance of two thousand marks that none of the members should carry any English cloth to the place of residence of the English Merchant Adventurers in the Low Countries. Disputes between the two rival interests, however, continued to arise from time to time; and, at last, in 1520, we find King Henry appointing commissioners to treat at Bruges with others to be appointed by the Hanse Towns, concerning the several privileges at any time granted to the Hanseatic League by the king or his predecessors; for the removal of the abuses, unjust usages, extensions, enlargements, restrictions, and other misinterpretations of their rights with which the Hanseatic merchants in England might be chargeable, and for the conclusion of a new treaty of commerce between England and the said Hanseatic League. What was the issue of this congress does not appear. Meanwhile the Merchant Adventurers, as they grew in wealth and power, became less disposed than ever to tolerate with patience either the irregular encroachments of the foreign company, or even the existence of its invidious privileges within their legal limits. The first movement for the suppression of the Steelyard Company appears to have been made by an application of the Merchant Adventurers to the government about the close of the year 1551. An answer to this information having been given in by the aldermen and merchants of the Steelyard, both statements were put into the hands of the solicitor-general and the recorder of London—upon whose report the council, on the 23rd of February, 1552, resolved that the Steelyard merchants had forfeited their liberties, and should for the future be held to stand in regard to the duties upon their exports and imports upon the same footing with any other strangers. The alleged grounds of this decree, as we gather them partly from King Edward's Journal, partly from other accounts, appear to have been, that the charters of incorporation of the Steelyard Company were contrary to the laws of the realm; that, no particular persons or towns being mentioned in their grants of privileges, it was uncertain to what persons or towns the said privileges extended, by reason of which uncertainty the company admitted to their immunities whomsoever they pleased, to the great prejudice of the king's customs and to the common hurt of the realm; that they had been in the habit of colouring the goods of other foreigners, that is, of getting such goods passed through the Custom-house as their own; that the condition had been broken on which their privileges when formerly forfeited had been restored by Edward IV., namely, that English subjects should enjoy the like privileges in Prussia and other Hanseatic parts; that, whereas for a hundred years after the first pretended concession of their privileges, they used to transport no merchandise out of the realm, but only to their own countries, nor import any but from their own countries, they now not only conveyed English merchandise into the Netherlands, but also imported into England the merchandise of all foreign countries; and, lastly—which was no doubt a chief reason, though one rather stronger, it must be confessed, in policy than in law—that, from small beginnings, they had so increased their trade, that it now constituted almost the entire trade carried on by foreigners in the kingdom;—they began, according to the statement in the king's Journal, by shipping not more than 8 pieces of cloth; then they sent out 100; then 1000; then 6000; till now there was exported in their name no less a quantity than 44,000 pieces, while no more than 1100 pieces were exported by all other foreigners together. Not much dependence, however, can be placed upon the correctness of these numbers. Other charges made against them, according to some accounts, though not mentioned by the king, were, that having for the last forty-five years had the sole control of the commerce of the kingdom, they had reduced the price of English wool so low as to 1s. 6d. per stone; and that they had likewise greatly depressed the home corn-market by the quantities of foreign grain they had imported. In addition to the native mercantile interest, therefore, they had arrayed against them the whole strength of the agricultural interest, including both the corn-grower and the wool-grower. The principal commodities which they were wont to import, besides grain, are stated to have been cordage and other naval stores, flax and hemp, linen cloth, wax, and steel.
The immediate effect of the abolition of the privileges of the Steelyard merchants is said to have been, that the English Merchant Adventurers the same year shipped off for Flanders no less a quantity than 40,000 pieces of cloth. The abolition of their privileges, however, did not extinguish the community of the Hanse merchants in England. In 1554, after Queen Mary's marriage had established a more intimate connexion with the empire, their privileges were restored, on the request of the ambassadors of the Hanse towns. But it is affirmed, though the fact is not quite certain, that, after a year or two, they were again withdrawn. The Steelyard Company, at all events, seems never to have completely recovered from its sudden unsettlement, as just related; and, though it continued to subsist as a trading association throughout the greater part of the present period, its circumstances were those of a struggling and gradually declining body, till at last Elizabeth, in the year 1597, took advantage of a mandate issued by the Emperor Rodolph for shutting up all the factories of the English Merchant Adventurers in Germany, to direct the lord-mayor and sheriffs of London to shut up the house occupied by the merchants of the Steelyard, which put an end to the existence of the company. In this proceeding, although the queen made a show of acting on the principle of retaliation, and went through the form of demanding a revocation of the imperial decree before she took the final step in the business, she was very well pleased that her application was rejected, and that she was thus afforded a fair pretext on which to get rid of an association, the services of which, however useful they might have been in earlier times, the country no longer stood in need of. The company of late, indeed, had been only an annoyance and a source of strife: to the last the Hanse merchants, on the one hand, continued to clamour importunately for the renewal of their ancient privileges, while the Merchant Adventurers, on the other, were as incessantly exclaiming against the unfairness of any association of foreign traders being suffered to reside in the kingdom, and to interfere with its commerce at all. The time was certainly now come in which native capital and enterprise were quite vigorous enough to dispense with any foreign aid.
The trade that had been opened with Russia in 1553 was vigorously prosecuted in the reign of Mary, from which sovereign the Russia Company, as already noticed, obtained its charter of incorporation in 1554. By this charter Sebastian Cabot was appointed, during his life, the first governor of the company, which was authorised, to the exclusion of all other English subjects, to trade not only to all parts of the dominions of the Russian emperor, but to all other regions not already known to English merchants. The following year two more ships were sent out, which sailed up the Dwina as far as Vologda, from which port Chancellor, who was in command, proceeded again to Moscow, and there arranged a commercial treaty with the Czar, in which all the usual privileges were accorded to the English traders. In 1556 the company again sent out two ships, which returned the same year, bringing along with them the two that had been frozen up in Lapland in 1553, in one of which was Sir Hugh Willoughby's body. They also brought an ambassador to the King and Queen of England from the Czar; but, the vessel in which he sailed being shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland, he lost nearly the whole of the valuable presents for their majesties of which he was the bearer. The next year four vessels were dispatched, one of which carried back the ambassador, and along with him Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, as agent for the company, the interests of which were afterwards greatly promoted by his exertions. After reaching Russia, Jenkinson set out on a voyage down the Volga to Astracan, from whence he crossed the Caspian Sea to Persia, and made his way to the city of Bokhara, or Boghar, as he calls it, which he found to be the resort of merchants not only from Russia, Persia, and India, but from Cathay or China, from which last country the journey occupied nine months. Jenkinson, whose object was to establish a trade between the company's Russian factories and Persia, returned from this journey in 1560, and, coming home to England the same year, published the first map of Russia that had ever been made. He is said to have made no fewer than six subsequent voyages to Bokhara by the same route; yet the prospect of the trade which he thus opened to the company, Anderson remarks, "was dropped some few years after, and remained as if it had never been thought of, until the reign of King George II. in 1741, when it was revived by an act of parliament enabling the Russia Company to trade into Persia; upon which considerable quantities of raw silk were brought home by the very same way that Jenkinson took from Persia to Russia, and from thence to England." "Yet," adds the historian, "the continual troubles and ravages in Persia have since suspended the good effects of this law." In 1566 the Russia Company obtained from the Sophi of Persia immunity from tolls and customs for their merchandise in that kingdom, and full protection for their goods and persons. The same year also their charter was ratified by an act of parliament, said to have been the first English statute which established an exclusive mercantile corporation. In 1571 Jenkinson went out to Russia with the appointment of ambassador from Queen Elizabeth to the Czar, and succeeded both in obtaining the restoration of the company's privileges, which the Czar had suspended, and in reinstating its affairs, which, from losses and mismanagement, had fallen into great disorder.
The event in the reign of Mary which most affected the foreign commerce of the country was the loss of Calais in 1558. This continental town, which England had held for two hundred and eleven years, however useless, or worse than useless a possession it might be, politically considered, was, as Anderson remarks, "extremely well situated for a staple port, to disperse, in more early times, the wool, lead, and tin, and in later times the woollen manufactures of England, into the inland countries of the Netherlands, France, and Germany." The staple for the above-mentioned articles of native produce was now transferred to Bruges, and helped somewhat to check the decline of that famous emporium, whose ancient grandeur had been for some time fast becoming pale under the overshadowing ascendancy of Antwerp.
We may consider as an indication of the growing internal trade of the country in this reign the passing of the first general statute for the repair of the highways (the 2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c. 8). This act directs that two surveyors of the highways shall be annually elected in every parish, as is still done, and that the parishioners shall attend four days in every year for their repair with wains or carts, oxen, horses, or other cattle, and all other necessaries, and also able men with the same, according to the quantity of land occupied by each; householders, cottagers, and others, not having land, if they be not hired labourers, by themselves or sufficient substitutes giving their personal work or travail. Upon this statute were founded all the highway acts that were subsequently passed before the introduction of tolls or turnpikes in the reign of Charles II. Of these there were six in all passed in the reign of Mary, and about nineteen in that of Elizabeth.
In the course of the long reign of Elizabeth the commerce and navigation of England may be said to have risen through the whole of the space that in the life of a human being would be described as intervening between the close of infancy and commencing manhood. It was the age of the vigorous boyhood and adolescence of the national industry, when, although its ultimate conquests were still afar off, the path that led to them was fairly and in good earnest entered upon, and every step was one of progress and buoyant with hope. In the busier scene, however, that now opens upon us, the crowd of recorded facts is too great to be marshalled within our limited space, and, passing over many things that would properly enter into a complete chronological deduction of our commerce from the point at which we are arrived, we must confine ourselves to a selection of a few of the most indicative particulars.
An act was passed by Elizabeth's first parliament (the stat. 1 Eliz. c. 13) which is remarkable for a liberality of view going far beyond the notions that were clung to by our commercial legislation in much later times. The preamble is a confession of the loss and inconvenience that had already avenged the interference of the legislature with the natural freedom of commerce by the introduction of the principle of what have been called the navigation laws. Since the making of those statutes prohibiting the export or import of merchandise by English subjects in any but English ships, "other foreign princes," says this recital, "finding themselves aggrieved with the said several acts, as thinking that the same were made to the hurt and prejudice of their country and navy, have made like penal laws against such as should ship out of their countries in any other vessels than of their several countries and dominions; by reason whereof there hath not only grown great displeasure between the fo reign princes and the kings of this realm, but also the merchants have been sore grieved and endamaged." The damage sustained by the merchants of course consisted in the monopoly freights they were obliged to pay for the carriage of their goods, the effect of which was to diminish trade by diminishing consumption, and a share in the pressure of which was borne by every consumer in the kingdom. The law was now so far relaxed that merchandise was allowed to be exported and imported in foreign bottoms upon the payment of aliens' customs; and the two great companies of the Merchant Adventurers and the Merchants of the Staple were further empowered, twice in the year, to export goods from the river Thames in foreign vessels, on payment only of the ordinary duties.
Many particulars respecting the foreign commerce of England at the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth have been preserved by Ludovico Guicciardini (nephew of the great historian of Italy) in his Description of the Netherlands, which was written about this time. The Dutch, he tells us, were wont to import annually to Bruges upwards of 1200 sacks of English wool, worth 250,000 crowns. And "it is marvellous," he adds, " to think of the vast quantity of drapery imported by the English into the Netherlands, being undoubtedly, one year with another, above 200,000 pieces of all kinds, which, at the most moderate rate of 25 crowns per piece, is 5,000,000 of crowns, or 10,000,000 of Dutch guilders (above 1,000,000l. sterling); so that these and other merchandise brought to us by the English, and carried from us to them, may make the annual amount to be more than 12,000,000 of crowns, or 24,000,000 of guilders (about 2,400,000l. sterling), to the great benefit of both countries, neither of which could possibly, or not without the greatest damage, dispense with this their vast mutual commerce; of which the merchants on both sides are so sensible, that they have fallen into a way of insuring their merchandise from losses at sea by a joint contribution." These last words are said to be the earliest notice of marine insurance, which they would seem to imply was first adopted in the trade between the Netherlands and England. The magnitude of that trade, as here described, greatly surpasses any conjectural estimate of its extent which could reasonably have been hazarded from the common notions entertained of the general state of commerce at this date. In fact, if we take into account the difference in the value of money, there is probably no single country, not even the United States of America, with which England in the present day carries on a larger commerce than she appears, from this statement, to have done with the Netherlands nearly three hundred years ago.
Of all the great commercial towns of the Netherlands, Antwerp, as we have already stated, was at this time the most eminent. Exclusive of the French, who, next to the native merchants, were the most numerous class of resident traders, it contained, according to Guicciardini, above a thousand foreigners engaged in commerce, consisting of Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Germans, Danes and other Easterlings, and English. His account of the commerce carried on by Antwerp with the British Islands is as follows:—"To England Antwerp sends jewels and precious stones, silver bullion, quicksilver, wrought silks, cloth of gold and silver, gold and silver thread, camblets, grograms, spices, drugs, sugar, cotton, cummin, galls, linens fine and coarse, serges, demiostades, tapestry, madder, hops in great quantities, glass, salt-fish, metallic and other merceries of all sorts to a great value, arms of all kinds, ammunition for war, and household furniture. From England Antwerp receives vast quantities of fine and coarse draperies, fringes and other things of that kind to a great value, the finest wool, excellent saffron in small quantities, a great quantity of lead and tin, sheep and rabbit skins without number, and various other sorts of fine peltry and leather, beer, cheese, and other sorts of provisions in great quantities; also Malmesey wines, which the English import from Candia. To Scotland Antwerp sends but little, as that country is chiefly supplied from England and France: Antwerp, however, sends hither some spicery, sugars, madder, wrought silks, camblets, serges, linen, and mercery; and Scotland sends to Antwerp vast quantities of peltry of many kinds, leather, wool, indifferent cloth, and fine large pearls, though not of quite so good a water as the Oriental ones. To Ireland Antwerp sends much the same commodities and quantities as to Scotland; and Antwerp takes from Ireland skins and leather of divers sorts, some low-priced cloths, and other gross things of little value." This minute, complete, and authentic account of the chief branch of our national commerce must be regarded as one of the most curious and instructive records of the present period.
From other parts of Guicciardini's description of Antwerp, a few additional particulars may be gleaned of interest in the history of English commerce. The English Bourse or Exchange was the place where the merchants of the several nations that were congregated in this great mart used to meet for an hour every morning and evening, to buy and sell all kinds of merchandise, with the assistance of their interpreters and brokers. The English cloths, stuffs, and wooI brought to Antwerp were exported thence to Venice, Naples, Milan, Florence, Genoa, and other parts of Italy; English cloths were sent to Germany "as a rare and curious thing, and of high price." Large quantities of the same merchandise also went to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Eastland, Livonia, and Poland; some to France; and a small portion also to Spain. To the last-mentioned country, indeed, is stated to have been sent everything produced by human industry and labour; "to which," says Guicciardini, "the meaner people of Spain have an utter aversion." A considerable quantity of English wool, however, probably still continued to be exported direct from England to Spain, and was there worked up into finer fabrics than the looms of this country could yet produce.
A memorable branch of English commerce is believed to have begun in the year 1562—the detestable African slave-trade. It is related that Mr. John Hawkins—the same who under the name of Sir John Hawkins was afterwards so distinguished as a naval commander—having learned that negroes brought a very good price in Hispaniola, assisted by subscriptions of sundry gentlemen, now fitted out three ships, of which the largest was 120 tons, the smallest only 40, and, proceeding to the coast of Guinea, there made up his cargo with human beings, and sailed with them to Hispaniola, where he sold his Africans and his English goods, and, loading his ships with hides, sugar, ginger, and many pearls, returned home the next year, having made a very prosperous adventure. Other two voyages of the same kind are recorded to have been made by Hawkins, who, in commemoration of his priority over all his countrymen in this line of enterprise, received as an addition to his arms " a demi-moor proper, bound with a cord:" but we do not hear much more of the African slave-trade as carried on by the English, till after the close of the present period.
It was in the year 1566 that the building of the Royal Exchange, in the city of London, was begun by the famous Sir Thomas Gresham, styled the queen's merchant, according to Anderson, "because he had the management of all her remittances, and her other money concerns with foreign states, and with her armies beyond sea." Before this the merchants of London used to meet in Lombard-street, in the open air. Sir Thomas was the son of Sir Richard Gresham, also an eminent London merchant, who is said to have been the original author of the project of building an exchange or covered walk for the merchants of his native capital, similar to what he had seen in Antwerp and other foreign cities, but who died before he could carry his design into execution. His son received a university education, having studied at Caius (or, as it was then called, Gonville) College, Cambridge, but was from the first intended by his father for a commercial life, and accordingly became a member of the Mercers' Company, the same to which Sir Richard himself, and also his brother Sir John Gresham, belonged. Sir Thomas was employed, as his father had been, in negotiating foreign loans, and managing other money transactions, by Edward VI., and enjoyed the distinguished favour both of that king and of his successors, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, from the latter of whom he received his knighthood in 1559. Ten years after, by his advice, the experiment was first tried of raising a loan for the crown at home, instead of resorting, as had always hitherto been done, to foreign capitalists; and from that time the new plan continued usually to he followed, to the great advantage both of the crown and of the public. Sir Thomas proposed to the lord mayor and citizens of London to erect a commodious building for the merchants to meet in, at his own charge, provided they would find him a site; and, his offer being at once accepted, a piece of ground, then covered with three streets, called New-alley, Swan-alley, and St. Christopher's-alley, was purchased for 3532l. The houses, it is related, about eighty in number, being cried by a bellman, and sold to persons who agreed to take them down and carry away the materials, brought the sum of 478l. ; after which the ground was levelled at the charge of the city, and possession of it given by the lord mayor and aldermen to Gresham, who laid the first stone of the new building on the 7th of June, 1566; and by November of the following year the edifice, which was of brick, was covered with a roof of slate. It was at first called the Bourse or Burse; but in 1570, soon after it was finished, as Holinshed tell us, "the three-and-twentieth of January, the queen's majesty, accompanied with her nobility, came from her house at the Strand, railed Somerset Place, and entered the city of London by Temple Bar, Fleet-street, Cheap, and so, by the north side of the Burse, to Sir Thomas Gresham's in Bishopsgate-street, where she dined: after dinner her grace returned through Cornhill, entered the Burse on the south side, and, after her highness had viewed every part thereof aboveground, especially the Pawn, which was richly furnished with all sorts of the finest wares in the city, she caused the same Burse, by an herald and a trumpet, to be proclaimed the Royal Exchange, so to be called from thenceforth, and not otherwise." Gresham, by his will, devised the Exchange which he had thus erected in equal shares to the corporation of London and to the Mercers' Company, and so the property continues to be held to the present day. The original building, a quadrangular arcade surrounding an open court, with galleries above containing shops, &c., perished in the great fire of 1666; after which the stone buildng on a more extensive scale, that was a few years ago burnt down, was erected by the city and the Mercers' Company, at a cost of 80,000l. Sir Thomas Gresham, who died in 1579, and who, as we have seen, was a scholar as well as a merchant, is also illustrious as the founder of the civic college known by his name, originally established in his house in Bishopsgate-street, which stood where the Excise Office now stands.
In 1567 the series of voyages of discovery, chiefly undertaken in pursuit of a new passage to India, which illustrates the reign of Elizabeth, commenced with the first voyage of Martin Frobisher, who entered upon his adventurous expedition with two barks of only twenty-five tons each, and a pinnace of ten tons; in the fitting out of which he was assisted by several persons of rank, and especially by Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick (elder brother of Leicester). The government, however, and Queen Elizabeth herself, also took a warm interest in the expedition, upon which the sanguine and intrepid commander is said to have set out with a determination either to discover the north-west passage, or to perish in the attempt. Frobisher and his companions sailed from Deptford on the 8th of June; the queen, who was then at Greenwich, looking-on from a window of the palace as they passed by, and waving her hand to them by way of expressing her good wishes and bidding them farewell. Proceeding along the eastern coast, they reached Fara, one of the Shetland Islands, from whence they directed their course westward till they came within sight of the coast of Greenland, upon which, however, they were not able to effect a landing. After this Frobisher entered the strait leading to Hudson's Bay which still bears his name, and landed on some of the adjacent coasts, which he took possession of for the English crown. The loss of some of his men, however, now made him resolve to return home ; and, after encountering a terrible storm, he arrived at Harwich on the 2nd of October. A circumstance that happened some years after the return of this expedition suddenly produced a general excitement respecting it, much greater than had been awakened by the geographical discoveries in which it had resulted. Among other specimens of the produce of the lands he had added to the queen's dominions, Frobisher had brought home with him a piece of heavy black stone, a fragment of which the wife of a person into whose hands it had fallen threw into the fire, when, being taken out again, and quenched in vinegar, it glittered like gold, and, it is said, was afterwards, upon being fused, actually found to contain a portion of that metal. As soon as this was known numbers of people eagerly offered their subscriptions to enable Frobisher to proceed on a second expedition; the queen herself placing at his disposal one of the ships of the royal navy, of two hundred tons burden. With this, and two barks of about thirty tons each, he again set out from Harwich on the 31st of May, 1577. This time no further attempt was made to penetrate to India: the adventurers had been expressly commanded to make the collection of gold-ore their only object; and, accordingly, after having reached Frobisher's Strait, as before, and found a quantity of the black stone on some of the islands where they landed, they prepared to return to England, which they reached in the end of September. Commissioners were now appointed by the queen to report on the whole affair; and, although it does not appear that anything could be got out of the pieces of black stone, it was still deemed expedient that another expedition should be sent out, either to make search for more genuine specimens of gold ore, or at least to prosecute the pursuit of the north-west passage, of which the discovery of Frobisher's Strait had appeared to open a prospect. Accordingly, on the 31st of May, 1578, Frobisher again sailed from Harwich with twelve ships in addition to the three he had commanded on his last voyage, that he might bring or send home an abundant importation of the black ore. This attempt, however, proved wholly unsuccessful; it was only after having been carried far out of their course by storms and currents that about half the number of the ships at last reached the mouth of the strait, when the season was too far advanced for a longer continuance in these inclement regions; so that, having collected as much of the black stone as he could find, Frobisher, without having added anything to his former discoveries, again set sail for England, which he reached about the beginning of October. It is unnecessary to say that the supposed ore appears to have only proved another exemplification of the truth of the old remark—that all is not gold that glitters. To Frobisher, however, geography owes the first penetration into these Polar seas, and the discovery both of the strait that bears his name, and of various islands, sounds, and points within and around it. Frobisher was afterwards employed in other naval commands, and as one of the chief captains of the fleet fitted out against the Spanish Armada; after one of the engagements with which his valour was recompensed by the lord high admiral with the honour of knighthood. He died in 1594 of a wound which he received in an attack upon a fort near Brest, which was held by a party of leaguers and Spaniards against Henry IV. of France, to whose assistance he had been sent with four men-of-war.
At the same time that Frobisher was engaged in his third and last expedition of discovery in the seas to the north of the American continent, the celebrated Francis Drake was performing the second circumnavigation of the globe; the first having been accomplished more than half a century before by the Portuguese navigator Fernando de Magalhanes, the discoverer of the strait which still bears his name. We need not advert here to the political circumstances in which Drake's enterprise originated; there is little doubt that it had the secret sanction of Elizabeth, although its primary object was to attack the possessions and plunder the ships of the Spaniards, with whom this country was then at peace. The vessels employed were the property of private individuals, friends of Drake; they were five in number, the largest, the Pelican, in which the commander of the expedition sailed, being of a hundred tons burden; the smallest, a pinnace of fifteen tons; and, including several gentlemen, the younger sons of noble families, the entire number of persons whom they carried was only one hundred and sixty-four. The little fleet sailed from Plymouth on the 15th of November, 1577. After making the coast of Brazil and entering the Rio de la Plata, Drake's ship and two others had passed through the Strait of Magelhanes, or Magellan, by the beginning of September, 1578. The southern coast of Tierra del Fuego was afterwards discovered by Drake, who then ran up along the western coast of America, as far as to latitude 48° north, collecting, at the same time, immense booty by a succession of exploits against the Spaniards, the relation of which does not belong to our present subject. Drake was the first navigator who had ever advanced to nearly so high a latitude along the North American coast. He afterwards sailed across the Pacific to the Molucca Islands and Java, and, steering thence for the Cape of Good Hope, finished his voyage round the world by returning to Plymouth, which he reached on Monday the 26th of September, 1580, after an absence of nearly two years and ten months. "The queen," says Camden, "received him graciously, and laid up the treasure he brought by way of sequestration, that it might be forthcoming if the Spaniard should demand it. His ship she caused to be drawn up in a little creek near Deptford, upon the Thames, as a monument of his so lucky sailing round the world, where the carcass thereof is yet to be seen. And, having, as it were, consecrated it as a memorial with great ceremony, she was banqueted in it, and conferred on Drake the honour of knighthood. At this time a bridge of planks, by which they came aboard the ship, sunk under the crowd of people, and fell down with an hundred men upon it, who, notwithstanding, had none of them any harm. So that that ship may seem to have been built under a lucky planet." Drake's ship was preserved at Deptford till it was quite decayed; and at last, when it was broken up, a chair was made of one of the planks, and presented to the University of Oxford. As for the treasure brought home by the great navigator, it is probable that, although a considerable sum was afterwards paid out of it in satisfaction of claims made in the name of some Spanish merchants, the greater part of it was divided among the captors. Camden goes on to tell us that, although the common people admired and highly commended Drake, as judging it no less honourable to have enlarged the bounds of the name and glory than of the empire of their country, yet "nothing troubled him more than that some of the chief men at court refused to accept the gold which he offered them as gotten by piracy." The queen, however, stood firmly by him, and, when Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, complained in passionate terms of his having so much as dared to sail in the Indian Sea, she boldly replied, that she understood not why her subjects, or those of any other prince, should be debarred from the Indies (that is, the Americas), to which she could not admit that the Spaniard had any just title, either by the Bishop of Rome's donation or by any other claim. She maintained that no imaginary right of property, asserted either by the Spaniards or the Portuguese, could hinder other princes from trading to those countries, and, without any breach of the law of nations, from transporting colonies into such parts of them as were not already settled. Nor, she concluded, could she or any other prince be with any reason prevented from freely navigating that vast ocean, seeing the use of the sea and air is common to all; "neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permitteth any possession thereof." This high tone, never before so distinctly taken by the English government, and never afterwards lowered, was mainly inspired by Drake's brilliant exploits.
The next voyages of discovery that fall to be mentioned after Drake's circumnavigation are the three made by John Davis in quest of a north-west passage: the first in 1585, in which he sailed as far north as the 73rd degree of latitude, and discovered the strait to which he has left his name; the second in 1586, in which he made the attempt to penetrate to the Pacific at a point farther to the south; the third in 1587, in which he again ascended the strait he had discovered two years before, with no better success than at first. In these attempts Davis was encouraged and assisted, not only by several members of the mercantile community, but by Burleigh, Walsingham, and others of the queen's ministers and the nobility.
Meanwhile another voyage round the world was performed by another Englishman, Mr. Thomas Cavendish, the son of a gentleman of property in Suffolk, who sailed from Plymouth with three vessels on the 21st of July, 1586, and, after a course both of navigation and of hostilities against the Spaniards strongly resembling that pursued by Drake, finished his circumnavigation by returning to the same port on the 9th of September, 1588, having thus been absent little more than two years and one month. This voyage, however, was not productive of any geographical discoveries of importance, though it corrected some of the statements of preceding navigators. In a second South-Sea voyage, undertaken by Cavendish in 1591, Captain John Davis, mentioned above, who commanded one of the ships, had the fortune to discover the Falkland Islands. Other South-Sea voyages, made by Andrew Merrick in 1589, and by Sir Richard Hawkins in 1593, added little or nothing to geographical knowledge; and the same may be said of the voyage for the discovery of a north-west passage, undertaken in 1602, by Captain George Weymouth, at the joint expense of the Russia and Turkey companies.
By this time, also, a direct commercial intercourse with India had been opened by the English. In 1581 a number of eminent merchants were incorporated into a company for trading to Turkey, to which country the charter declared that they had, at their own great costs and charges, found out and opened a trade "not heretofore in the memory of any man now living known to be commonly used and frequented byway of merchandise." Wishing to engage in the trade to India, this company, in 1583, dispatched Messrs. Newbury and Fitch to Tripoli in Syria, from which they proceeded to Bagdad, and thence down the Tigris and the Persian Gulf to Ormus, where they embarked for Goa. Newbury died in India, but Fitch, after having visited Agra, Bengal, Pegu, Ceylon, and Cochin, returning by Goa, Ormus, and Aleppo, arrived again in England in April, 1591. A trade, however, carried on by this overland route, could never have enabled the English merchants to compete with their Portuguese rivals; and before Fitch's return this had come to be generally felt. It appears that, in 1589, a petition was presented to the queen from sundry merchants, requesting permission to make a trading adventure to India by sea. On the 10th of April, 1591, nearly at the very moment at which Fitch made his reappearance, three ships, fitted out by the chief members of the Turkey Company, sailed from Plymouth for the Cape of Good Hope, one of which, commanded by Captain Lancaster, after suffering many disasters, reached India, and took in a cargo of pepper and other spices at Sumatra and Ceylon. But, having afterwards set out for the West Indies, Lancaster there lost his ship, and was left with his crew on the uninhabited island of Mona, near Hispaniola, from which he was brought home to Europe by a French vessel in May, 1594, after having been absent about three years and two months. Three other ships, sent out for India and China in 1596 by Sir Robert Dudley and some other London merchants, were still more unfortunate. Meanwhile the war with Spain and Portugal had cut off the usual supply of Oriental productions by the medium of the latter country, in consequence of which the price of pepper is said to have been raised from three to eight shillings per pound, and the prices of other commodities in the same proportion, none being to be had except from the Dutch, who had gone into the India trade in 1595, and were already carrying it on with great success. In 1599 the merchants of the Turkey Company made another attempt to establish a land trade with India by dispatching a Mr. Mildenhall to the court of the Great Mogul at Agra; but he did not reach that capital till the year 1603, and, although he afterwards obtained important commercial privileges for the company from the Mohammedan emperor, his proceedings do not belong to the history of the present period. In the mean time the scheme of an East India trade, to be carried on by sea, and independently of the Turkey Company, had at last been taken up with effect. On the 22nd of September, 1599, the lord mayor, aldermen, and principal merchants of London, to the number of about a hundred, assembled at Founders' Hall, and united themselves into an association for trading to India, for which purpose they subscribed on the spot a capital of above 30,000l. At a subsequent meeting they drew up a petition to the privy council, in which they represented that, stimulated by the success which had attended the voyages to the East Indies already made by the Dutch, who were then fitting out another voyage, for which they had bought ships in England, the associated merchants had resolved upon making a voyage of adventure of the same kind, and for that purpose entreated that her majesty would grant them letters patent of incorporation, succession, &c., seeing that the proposed trade, being so remote, could not be managed but by a joint and united stock. This movement led, after a delay occasioned by the prospect of a peace with Spain, to the grant by the queen, on the 3 1st of December, 1600, of a charter to a great number of gentlemen therein named, constituting them one body corporate and politic, by the name of "The Governor and Company of the Merchants of London trading into the East Indies;" Mr. Thomas Smith, alderman of London, one of the leading members of the Turkey Company, being appointed the first governor. The charter, among other privileges, conferred the exclusive right of trading, for fifteen years, to all parts of Asia, Africa, and America, beyond the Cape of Good Hope eastward as far as to the Strait of Magellan, excepting such countries or ports as might be in the actual possession of any Christian prince in amity with the queen. The new company lost no time in sending out their first adventure. Four ships, the best that could be found in England, although the largest was only of six hundred tons burden, the smallest of not more than two hundred and forty tons, and carrying in all four hundred and eighty men, having been put under the command of Lancaster, who was styled Admiral of the little fleet, and was invested by the queen with the power of exercising martial law, dropped down from Woolwich on the 13th of February, 1601, but did not take their departure from Torbay till the 22nd of April, and did not reach Acheen, in Sumatra, till the 5th of June in the following year. In consequence of the time thus lost Lancaster did not return home till after the death of Elizabeth, so that the history of all but the mere opening of the commerce of the English with India belongs to the next period.
A beginning was also made in the latter part of the present reign in the attempt to effect settlements in some of the newly discovered parts of the earth, although the proper foundation of the colonial empire of England must be referred to a later date. In 1576 Sir Humphrey Gilbert (half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh) had published a treatise on the subject of the north-west passage, and, two years after, had obtained a patent, empowering him to occupy and colonise such parts of the North American continent as were not already in the possession of any of the queen's allies. Gilbert, accordingly, accompanied by Raleigh, made an attempt the same year to carry his project into execution; but he had not long put out to sea when he was obliged to return with the loss of one of his best ships. No better success attended a second attempt of the two brothers in 1583: after having reached Newfoundland, Gilbert, who has been called "the father of our plantations," perished with his ship in a storm on his voyage home; and, of four other vessels of which the expedition consisted, only one reached England. The next year, however, Raleigh, not discouraged by this disastrous failure, having obtained letters patent from the queen, granting to him all such countries as he should discover in full property, with the reservation only to the crown of a fifth part of the gold or silver ore that might be found in them, again fitted out two ships, and dispatched them to the North American coast, with directions to take a more southerly course than that which had been followed by Gilbert. The result of this voyage was the discovery of the part of the American continent which Elizabeth honoured, in allusion to herself, with the name of Virginia. Raleigh's patent was now confirmed by act of parliament, and, early in 1585, he sent out another fleet of seven vessels, under the conduct of his relative. Sir Richard Grenville, a most distinguished person, alike as a seaman and as a soldier, to take complete possession of and effect a settlement on the newly acquired territory, Grenville actually left a colony of one hundred and eight men on the island of Roanoak, adjacent to the coast of Virginia; but scarcely had the ships that brought them out taken their departure when the settlers became involved in hostilities with the natives, in consequence of which they were glad to embark in the fleet of Sir Francis Drake, who chanced to touch at the place on his return from another expedition against the Spanish possessions, and who brought them home to England about the end of July, 1586. Within a fortnight after they had sailed, Grenville arrived with three ships laden with all necessaries, which Raleigh had dispatched for their use, and, finding them gone, he left fifteen men in the place with provisions for two years. When the next year Raleigh sent out three more vessels, with a governor, Mr. John White, and twelve assistants, to whom he gave a charter, incorporating them by the name of the Governor and Assistants of the City of Raleigh in Virginia, no remains of these unhappy settlers were to be found, except their bones scattered on the beach: they had all been put to death by the savages. An attempt was made by White and his companions to repair the buildings which had been laid in ruins; but new hostilities with the natives, and dissensions among the settlers themselves, soon arose, and the governor eventually determined upon returning for further supplies to England, where he arrived in the beginning of November. At this moment the public mind in England was occupied with one object—the grand Spanish armament that was already afloat for the invasion of the kingdom; Raleigh himself was busy among the foremost in devising the necessary arrangements for the national defence; he found means, in the first instance, to send back White with supplies in two vessels, which, however, were attacked by a Spanish privateer, and so much disabled as to be incapable of proceeding on their voyage; but after this no further attempt was made to relieve the unhappy colonists of Virginia, who, men, women, and children, to the number of nearly a hundred and twenty, that had been left by White, must all speedily have perished of want if they were not destroyed by the tomahawks of the barbarous aborigines upon whose wilderness they had intruded. And thus terminated the work of colonization as prosecuted by the English in the reign of Elizabeth.
We will now add a few notices respecting the navy and commercial shipping of the kingdom in this reign. Very soon after she came to the throne, Camden tells us, "this wise and careful princess, in order to prevent any hostile attempts, and secure herself and her subjects in the fruition of a settled peace, though her treasure ran low, yet began to stock her armoury with all necessary ammunition, expending a vast sum for arms in Germany, because those she bought up at Antwerp were stopped by the Spaniard." She also, he adds, caused a great number of iron and brass pieces to be cast; and in this she was aided by the discovery both of great abundance of calamine, or zinc, in different parts of England, and of a vein of copper near Keswick, in Cumberland, so rich that it afforded a sufficient supply not only for the home demand, but for exportation. She likewise introduced the manufacture of gunpowder, and made the military service popular by raising the pay of the soldiers. Further, the historian goes on, "she rigged out her fleet with all manner of tackling and ammunition, so that it may be allowed to have been the best equipped navy that was ever set out by the English. For the defence whereof she built a castle on the banks of the Medway near Upnore, the usual harbour for the fleet, and augmented the sailors' and mariners' pay; so that she was justly styled by strangers the Restorer of the Naval Glory, and the Queen of the North Seas. Neither had she occasion to hire ships from Hamburgh, Lubeck, Dantzic, Genoa, and Venice, which was her predecessors' case. The wealthier inhabitants of the sea-coasts did likewise follow the queen's example in building ships of war with all imaginable cheerfulness, insomuch that in a little time the queen's fleet, in conjunction with her subjects' shipping, was so potent that it was able to furnish out twenty thousand fighting men for sea service." The ships thus built by private individuals were of course merchant-ships, though liable to be pressed into the public service in cases of emergency. In 1572 it is stated that the entire navy of England consisted of 146 vessels of all sizes, of which 1 carried a hundred guns, 9 from eighty-eight to sixty, 49 from fifty-eight to forty, 58 from thirty-eight to twenty, and the remaining 29 from eighteen to six. Of these, however, only 13 belonged to the crown; the rest consisted of the mercantile shipping of the country, which was still esteemed the principal part of its maritime force. In the year 1582 the English merchantmen are said to have been 135 in number, many of them being of 500 tons burthen. The fleet equipped to encounter the Spanish Armada, in 1588, consisted, according to the most authentic account, of 117 ships, having on board 11,120 men. Of these vessels eighteen are stated to have been merchant adventurers from the river Thames, but of the rest by far the greater number must have been merchantmen hired or pressed for the occasion. Another account makes the entire number of ships to have been 181; namely, 34 men-of-war, of which five were from 800 to 1100 tons burthen each; the 18 private adventurers; 33 furnished by the city of London; 43 hired ships; and 53 coasters, sent by various sea-ports, These last seem to be omitted in the other enumeration. According to a work published in the latter part of the seventeenth century, the writer of which appears to have derived much of his information from Pepys, the then Secretary of the Admiralty (and author of the well-known Diary), Queen Elizabeth in 1588 had at sea 150 sail of ships, of which only 40 were the property of the crown. Besides the 110 hired vessels, however, the mercantile shipping of the kingdom amounted to 150 sail, measuring on an average 150 tons, and carrying 40 seamen each. Each of the queen's own ships carried about 300 men, and each of those hired by her about 110. It is added that, by the end of the reign, both the quantity of the shipping and the number of the seamen belonging to the kingdom had increased about a third. According to an account presented by the Navy Office in 1791, in obedience to an order of the House of Commons, the royal navy amounted in 1547, at the end of the reign of Henry VIII., to 12,455 tons; in 1553, at the end of the reign of Edward VI., to 11,065; in 1558, at the end of the reign of Mary, to 7110; and in 1603, at the end of the reign of Elizabeth, to 17,110. The largest of Queen Elizabeth's ships at her death is said to have measured 1000 tons, and to have carried 340 seamen, and 40 cannon.
A new species of maritime adventure in which the English began to engage in the reign of Elizabeth was the whale-fishery. Hakluyt, under the year 1575, reports the "request of an honest merchant, by letter to a friend of his, to be advised and directed in the course of killing the whale;" with the friend's answer, stating that there ought to be provided a ship of 200 tons burthen, with proper utensils and instruments, and that all the necessary hands were to be obtained from Biscay, the people of which country appear to have been, with the exception perhaps of the inhabitants of some of the most northern regions, the earliest whale-fishers in Europe. The first notice in Hakluyt of any actual whale-fishing by the English occurs under the date of 1593, in which year it is stated that some English ships made a voyage to Cape Breton to fish for morse and whales; and before the close of the century we find the ships of the Russia Company engaged occasionally in fishing for whales in the seas in the neighbourhood of Spitzbergen. It appears that the oil was the only thing for which the whale was then valued—at least there is no mention at this early date of any trade in the fins or whalebone.
In 1577, according to Hakluyt, the ships engaged in the Newfoundland fishery were 150 from France, 100 from Spain, 50 from Portugal, and 15 from England; the Biscayans had also 20 or 30 ships engaged in the whale-fishery; but the English, he says, had the best ships, and therefore gave the law to the rest, and were their protectors in the bays from pirates and other intruders, for which it was then, and had been of old, a custom to make them a sort of acknowledgment by a boatload of salt or other present of that nature. The ships of the Spaniards were the next best to those of the English. Hakluyt accounts for the small number of the English ships that resorted to Newfoundland by the number employed in the Iceland fishery.
A new mercantile company was incorporated by Elizabeth in 1579, by the name of the Fellowship of Eastland Merchants, with the exclusive right of trading to Norway, Sweden, Poland, Prussia, and all the other countries along the coasts of the Baltic. "This," says Anderson, "was what is called in England a regulated company—that is, a company trading, not on a joint stock, but every one on his separate bottom, under certain regulations." The exclusive privileges of this association were extinguished at the Revolution by the act called the Declaration of Rights; but in Anderson's time the Eastland Merchants, and also the Merchants of the Staple, who were similarly circumstanced, continued to exist in name, and to elect their annual officers—their capital being reduced to a small stock in the public funds, the interest of which defrayed the expenses of their yearly meetings. The once famous South Sea Company, of which this writer was one of the officers, is now reduced to the same condition of a merely nominal existence.
We have seen the rise of Antwerp, soon after the commencement of the present period, to the rank of being the most eminent commercial city in the world—the principal impulse which carried it to this height being originally derived from the opening of the Portuguese trade by sea with India. In 1585 the capture and sack of this great emporium by the Spanish commander, the Duke of Parma, gave a shock to the whole system of European commerce. About six thousand of the inhabitants perished in the devastation of their noble and opulent city; and of the survivors of its fall the greater number of those whose wealth, enterprise, and industry had hitherto chiefly sustained it, fled from its ensanguined streets and blackened ruins. To quote the compendious summary of Anderson,—"The ruin of this famous city gave the finishing blow to the commerce of the Spanish Netherlands. The fishing-trade removed into Holland. The noble manufactures of Flanders and Brabant were dispersed into different countries. The woollen manufacture settled mostly in Leyden, where it still flourishes. The linen removed to Haerlem and Amsterdam. About a third part of the manufacturers and merchants who wrought and dealt in silks, damasks, tafteties, bayes, sayes, serges, stockings, &c., settled in England, because England was then ignorant of those manufactures." The rise, indeed, of the manufacturing industry of this country may be said to date from the fall of Antwerp. In commercial importance Amsterdam now became what Antwerp had been, the grand emporium of Europe.
A curious evidence of how much the internal trade of England was still dependent upon the periodical fairs or markets held in the great towns is afforded by a proclamation issued in 1593, prohibiting the holding of Bartholomew fair in the usual manner for that year in consequence of the plague being then in London. The proclamation speaks of there being wont to be a general resort to the fair of all kinds of people out of every part of the realm, who would therefore carry the sickness back with them over the whole country, if the fair were to be kept as usual. It was too necessary, however, to the public convenience to be altogether suppressed even for a single year: all that was attempted, therefore, was to establish certain regulations with the object of diminishing, as much as possible, the concourse of people, or the danger thence arising. These regulations give a good view of what Bartholomew fair was two hundred and fifty years ago. Her majesty commands, "That, in the usual place of Smithfield, there be no manner of market for any wares kept, nor any stalls or booths for any manner of merchandise, or for victuals, suffered to be set up; but that the open place of the ground called Smithfield be only occupied with the sale of horses and cattle, and of stall wares, as butter, cheese, and such like, in gross, and not by retail; the same to continue for two days only. And, for vent of woollen cloths, kerseys, and linen cloths, to be all sold in gross, and not by retail, the same shall be all brought within the Close Yard [afterwards called the Cloth Fair] of St. Bartholomew's, where shops are there continued, and have gates to shut the same place in the nights, and there such cloth to be offered for sale, and to be bought in gross, and not by retail; the same market to continue but three days. And that the sale and vent for leather be kept in the outside of the ring in Smithfield, as hath been accustomed, without erecting any shops or booths for the same, or for any victualler or other occupier of any ways whatsoever." From this we may gather that Bartholomew fair was in those days a great annual mart to which merchants used to come up from the various parts of the country, and perhaps from other countries, to make their wholesale purchases, just as some of the continental fairs still are. The object of the regulations was to prevent the holding of the retail market, by which, of course, the crowd of visitors was chiefly attracted; but the wholesale market was too indispensable to the general trade of the country to be interfered with.
Our space will only allow us to add a few out of many particulars that have been preserved relating to the commerce of Scotland during the present period. In the early part of the period commercial legislation in that country was directed by the same spirit and to the same objects as in England. Thus, among the acts passed by the first parliament of James IV., in 1488, was one enforcing the importation of a certain quantity of money by every merchant exporting Scottish commodities: wool, cloth, salmon, and herrings are the descriptions of native produce and manufactures that are specified as being wont to be sent abroad. At this time the general tendency of the laws that were made was rather to check than encourage foreign trade. This same parliament, by another act, prohibited vessels coming from abroad, whether foreign or belonging to the country, from putting in at any other ports than those of what are called the free burghs, of which Dunbarton, Irvine, Wigton, Kirkcudbright, and Renfrew—all in the western part of the country—are mentioned as the chief; and further made it illegal for foreigners to carry on any trade whatever except at the said burghs. Foreign merchants were also expressly prohibited from buying any fish in Scotland till they were salted and barrelled. The navy of Scotland at this time appears to have consisted of only two vessels, the Flower and the Yellow Carvel. "They were adapted," observes Macpherson, "chiefly for war, being well provided with guns, crossbows, lime-pots, fire-balls, two-handed swords, and also with good seamen, under the command of Sir Andrew Wood, a brave and experienced officer; but I cannot venture to affirm whether they belonged to the public or were Wood's own private property." In the course of his reign, however, James made great efforts to raise the maritime power of his kingdom; and we afterwards find the list of his distinguished naval commanders increased by the names of the two Bartons (father and son), Alexander Mathisson, William Merrimouth of Leith, styled King of the Sea, and others. The ships in which these adventurers sailed, however, appear to have been for the most part their own property. A later writer his drawn a glowing picture of the naval eminence to which their exertions and the fostering patronage of the king raised their country: "They were encouraged to extend their voyages, to arm their trading vessels, to purchase foreign ships of war, to import cannon, and to superintend the building of ships of force at home. In these cases the monarch not only took an interest, but studied the subject with his usual enthusiasm, and personally superintended every detail. He conversed with his mariners,—rewarded the most skilful and assiduous by presents,—visited familiarly at the houses of his principal merchants and sea-officers,—practised with his artillerymen, often discharging and pointing the guns,—and delighted in embarking on short voyages of experiment, in which, under the tuition of Wood or the Bartons, he became acquainted with the practical parts of navigation. The consequences of such conduct were highly favourable to him: he became as popular with his sailors as he was beloved by his nobility; his fame was carried by them to foreign countries; shipwrights, cannon-founders, and foreign artisans of every description, flocked to his court, from France, Italy, and the Low Countries." The Statute-book shows the anxiety evinced by the legislature in this reign for the encouragement of one great branch of maritime enterprise and industry. An act of 1493 directs that ships and busses should be built in all sea-ports for the fishery, none of which were to be under twenty tons burden; that they should be provided with nets and other necessary implements; and that the magistrates of the said towns should compel all idle persons to serve in them. Another act of 1499, entitled 'Anent [concerning] the great innumerable riches that is tint [lost] in fault of ships and busses,' renews the same regulations. Other enactments, however, prompted by the prevalent jealousy of foreigners, tended to check the extension of the fishing-trade fully as much as these did to force it. Thus, in 1540, the parliament altogether prohibited the sending of white fish beyond sea, declaring that strangers should only be permitted to come and buy them of merchants and freemen of burghs with ready gold and silver, or merchandise; and an act of the fourth parliament of James VI enjoined all fishers of herring, or other white fish, to bring their fish to free ports, there to be sold, first in common to all subjects, and afterwards the remainder to freemen, that the king's own subjects might be first served, and that, if abundance remained, they might be salted and exported by free burgesses. Here we have the spirit of the mercantile and that of the corporation system in operation at the same time—the exclusion of the foreign in favour of the native producer or capitalist, and of the non-freeman in favour of the burgess. The interest of the general class of consumers was as little thought of as if no such class had existed.
The Danish historians record that in 1510, when Denmark was invaded by a squadron from Lubeck, King John provided a fleet for himself by purchasing ships, at a great expense, from his allies, the English, French, and Scots, all of which nations, it is stated, had then many vessels in the Baltic. But the most considerable Scottish fleet of the earlier part of the sixteenth century of which we have an account is that which is stated to have been fitted out by James V., in 1540, for an expedition to the islands on the north-west coast of his kingdom. It consisted of twelve stout ships, with which the king himself, attended by several of his chief nobility and a military force (Lord Herbert says that the vessels, which he makes fifteen in number, carried two thousand men), landed in all the principal islands, and, carrying away with him the chiefs as hostages for the obedience and orderly behaviour of their clans, in that way, for the first time, reduced those dependencies under real subjection to the Scottish crown. On this occasion James carried with him an excellent navigator and hydrographer, named Alexander Lindsay, who drew from his observations in this voyage the first known chart of Scotland and the adjacent islands—a work that has been repeatedly engraved, and is not only very accurate for that age, but much superior to some drawn at a later date.
Veer, otherwise called Campvere, or Terveer, in Zealand, had now become the Scottish staple in the Netherlands, and Ludovico Guicciardini states that it owed its principal commerce to that circumstance. The principal foreign trade of Scotland, as of England, was, during the whole of this period, with the Netherlands. The office of Conservator of the nation's mercantile privileges in that country is mentioned in an act of parliament passed in one of the first years of the sixteenth century, and is thought to be of still earlier origin; an act of 1579 imposes a payment of 10l. Flemish (about 6l. sterling) as entrance-money upon every person becoming a member of the association of merchants trading to the Netherlands; and another act of the same year (repeated in 1597) confiscates all the goods of non-freemen trading thither, two-thirds to go to the crown, and the remaining third to the conservator. This office, which was similar to that of a foreign consul, was preserved, it may be added, down almost to our own times. In the latter years of the sixteenth century mention is made of Scottish ships trading both to the Azores and the Canaries. Wine was probably the principal commodity which they brought from those islands.
The commercial legislation of the northern kingdom continued to be of the same restrictive character as ever to the end of the present period. In 1579 the exportation of coals and of salted meat was strictly prohibited. In 1581 and 1582 certain sumptuary regulations were promulgated by the parliament for the avowed purpose of putting down or diminishing the use of foreign commodities, in the notion that thereby home manufactures would be encouraged and the poor better employed. All persons, not being dukes, earls, lords of parliament, knights, or landed gentlemen possessed of at least 2000l. of yearly rent (that is, 250l. sterling), were prohibited, under heavy fines, from wearing in their clothing or lining: any cloth of gold or silver, velvet, satin, damask, taffeties, fringes, passments (a kind of lace), or embroidery of gold, silver, or silk; or (with the exception of certain officers and magistrates) any lawn, cambric, or woollen cloth made in foreign parts; and all persons under the above-mentioned degrees were also forbidden the use of confections, foreign drugs, and costly spices, which, it is affirmed, were wont to be lavishly used at weddings, christenings, and other banquets, by persons of low estate. At the same time the exportation of wool was absolutely prohibited. The admission of representatives of shires and burghs to seats in the Scottish parliament, which took place in 1587, was soon followed by the enactment of various laws for confining both trade and manufactures, as far as possible, to the freemen of burghs—with so quick an instinct did the new class that had thus obtained a share in the legislature proceed to turn the power they had secured to account in the promotion of their own interests or selfish views! Towards the close of the present period, however, we begin to perceive symptoms of the relaxation or giving way of the old legislation against foreign commerce, as it may be correctly designated. In 1597 the parliament, while it renewed the prohibition against the exportation of wool, found itself obliged to allow the bringing over of craftsmen from foreign parts to work it up; and, while it laid a duty of five per cent, upon all cloth and other merchandise imported from abroad, it permitted peers, barons, and freeholders both to send their own goods beyond sea without paying custom, and also to import wines, cloths, and other furniture, duty free, provided they did so, not for merchandise, but for their own particular use This was a permission which we may be sure would be taken advantage of to introduce foreign commodities into the country to a much greater extent than the act professed to contemplate. Another of the acts of the parliament of this year, however, absolutely prohibited the importation into the country of English woollens, which, it was pleased to say, had, for the most part, only an outward show, and were wanting in that substance and strength which oft-times they appeared to have, besides being one of the chief causes of the transportation of gold and silver out of the realm.
The legal interest of money in Scotland was fixed in 1586 at ten per cent., or at five bolls of victual for 100l. by the year. The average price of five bolls of victual, that is, probably, oats, was therefore 10l or about 25s. sterling. In other words, oats at this time sold in Scotland for about 5s. per boll, which would be about 6s. 8d. per quarter.
The history of the Coinage in England for the greater part of the present period exhibits a continuation of the process of depreciation which had been going on throughout the preceding century, with the introduction of a new mode of debasement still more ruinous.
Henry VII. preserved the same standard which had been fixed by Edward IV. in 1464 and adhered to by Richard III., the pound of silver being still coined into 450 pennies, or thirty-seven nominal shillings and six-pence. Shillings, which had hitherto been only money of account, were first struck by this king in 1504; they were at first called, also, large groats, and afterwards testoons, the latter name (from the French teste or tête, a head) being given to them from the royal image being stamped upon them in the unusual form of a profile instead of a full face. "This silver money of Henry VII. with the half face," says Leake, "differs therein from all his predecessors after King Stephen; and in this his successors followed his example, for we have none afterwards with the full face but the bad money of Henry VIII. and the good of Edward VI. He was the first, likewise, except Henry III., that added the number to his name to distinguish his money from the former Henries. He also left off the old Rose, as it is called, about the head, and, instead of the pellets and place of mintage on the reverse, he placed the arms, which is the first time we see it upon the English silver money." A new gold coin appears in the reign of Henry VII., called the Sovereign, or sometimes the Rose Rial, or the Double Rose Noble, of the value of twenty shillings; and there were also half sovereigns and double sovereigns. As these gold coins, however, are exceedingly scarce, the writer last quoted thinks it probable that "they were struck upon extraordinary occasions, only in the nature of medals, and, perhaps, were first coined in honour of the king's coronation, as his figure thereon, in the attitude of that solemnity, seems to intimate." "We are told," he adds, "such were distributed at the coronation of Queen Mary, and sovereigns were coined in every reign afterwards to King James I. inclusive."
The state of Henry VIII. 's money, Leake observes, was, like his mind and humour, very changeable and uncertain. At first he observed the same standard as his father, but he afterwards debased both his gold and his silver coins, being, Camden says, the first king of England that mixed the money with brass, or rather copper. Some alloy, however, was of course used before his time; and the fact seems to be that he merely made a very considerable increase in the quantity, employing the copper not merely to harden the coin and make it fit for use, but to diminish its intrinsic value. According to the tables drawn up by Folkes from the sure authority of the indentures made with the Masters of the Mint, it appears that, whereas, hitherto, the minted pound had consisted of eleven ounces two pennyweights of silver, and only eighteen pennyweights of alloy, Henry, in 1543, changed the proportions to ten ounces of silver and two ounces of alloy. Two years after he reduced the amount of silver to six ounces, or only one-half of the entire metal; and in 1546 he adopted the still more monstrous proportion of only four ounces of silver with eight of alloy. The pieces struck in both these last-mentioned coinages can only be justly described by the name of base money. But in addition to this debasement of the coinage Henry very materially depreciated it; that is to say, he coined the pound of silver or mixed metal into a greater nominal amount of money than it had previously been made to produce. Instead of 37s. 6d., or 450 pennies, into which it had been coined ever since the fourth year of Edward IV., he made it yield 45s., or 540 pennies, in 1527; and in 1543, 48s., or 576 pennies. So that, taking the effect of the two operations together, he at last, instead of the former rate of 450 pennies out of eleven ounces and two penny-weights of silver, produced 576 pennies out of only four ounces of that metal. Henry's gold coins were sovereigns, half-sovereigns, or rials, half and quarter rials, angels, angelets or half angels, and quarter angels, George nobles, forty-penny pieces, crowns of the double rose, and half-crowns. The George noble was so called from its having on the reverse St. George killing the dragon; its value was 6s. 8d., or two forty-penny pieces, the old value of the angel, which in 1527 was raised to 7s. 6d., an alteration rendered necessary in order to maintain the old relation between the gold and silver coinage after the similar depreciation of the latter. Gold was at this time valued, in the operations of the English Mint, at twelve times its weight in silver.
But the depreciation and the debasement of the coinage were carried still farther by Edward VI. than they had been by his father. At first, indeed, he diminished the quantity of alloy from eight to six ounces in the pound; but in 1551 he increased it to nine, leaving only three ounces of silver in the pound of mixed metal out of which the different pieces of money were struck. Then, instead of 48s., as in the last reign, 72s. were now coined out of the pound. That is to say, instead of the old rate of 450 pennies out of more than eleven ounces of silver, three ounces were now made to yield 864 pennies. The public inconvenience and confusion, however, that resulted from this prodigious depreciation came at length to be so severely felt that, towards the end of the reign, vigorous measures were taken to restore the coinage to its ancient standard; and in 1552 the alloy in the pound of silver was reduced to nineteen pennyweights, or to within one pennyweight of what it had always been down to the thirty-fourth year of Henry VIII. At the same time the number of shillings into which the pound of metal was coined was reduced from 72 to 60. The gold coin, which had been as much depreciated as the silver, was likewise restored to the same extent. Edward VI. was the first English king that issued crowns, half-crowns, and sixpences of silver, if we except a crown struck by his father, which does not seem to have been intended for circulation.
One of Queen Mary's first proceedings was to issue a proclamation for the regulation of the coinage, in which she dilated upon the great mischiefs that had ensued from the base money of the two preceding reigns; but in her own first coinage, nevertheless, she once more slightly reduced the fineness of the metal, making the alloy of the pound of silver an ounce instead of nineteen penny-weights, and adding also two pennyweights more of alloy to the pound of gold. The coins struck after her marriage bear her husband's head and name as well as her own. Some authorities state that crowns of gold were struck by Philip and Mary; but no such pieces are now known to exist.
The complete restoration of the coinage was reserved for Queen Elizabeth. In the second year of her reign the silver coin recovered the whole of its ancient fineness by the alloy in the pound being: reduced to eighteen pennyweights, a proportion which has ever since been retained. The number of shillings struck out of the pound of silver, however, was not lessened; on the contrary, after having continued to be 60, as in the preceding reign, till 1601, it was then increased to 62, as it remained ever after till 1816, when it was farther increased to 66, which it still is. The debased money of her father and brother was also recalled and melted in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign; so much of it as was received at the Mint is computed to have passed current for above 638,000l., its real value being only about 244,000l. The gold coins of Elizabeth are sovereigns and half sovereigns, crowns and half crowns, angels, half angels, and quarter angels, nobles and double nobles. Of the sovereigns there are some remarkable as having milled edges, being the first English money so distinguished. There are also milled shillings, sixpences, and other silver coins belonging to almost every year of this reign. Besides the common silver money, Elizabeth coined what were called portcullis crowns or dollars, being imitations of the Spanish dollar or piece of eight, and of the value of 4s. 6d., for the use of the East India Company. These pieces are now very scarce. It appears also that, a short time before her death, she had intended to coin farthings and other coins of small value of copper, a metal which had not yet been made use of for money in this country.
The depreciation of the Scottish money, which had already proceeded so far before the commencement of the present period, was carried during its course farther and farther in each successive reign. The debasement of the metal of the Scottish coinage, however, never approached the point to which that of the English was carried by Henry VIII. and Edward VI. As in England, the ancient standard of fineness had been eighteen pennyweights of alloy in the pound of silver; in 1529, the sixteenth year of James V., the proportion of alloy was made three ounces, and in 1576 four ounces; but three years later it was restored to the former proportion of one ounce, at which it remained throughout the rest of the period. But, whereas the pound of silver had originally, as in England, been coined into 20 shillings, or rather into 240 pennies, and even after a century of progressive depreciation had in 1475 been made to produce only 144s.; in 1529 it was coined into 192s.; in 1556 into 260s.; in 1565 into 360s.; in 1571 into 334s.; in 1579 into 440s.; in 1581 into 480s.; in 1597 into 600s.; and finally, in 1601, into 720s. In other words, what was originally only one pound had, by the steady operation of this nefarious and mischievous process, as practised by the government through the space of about three centuries, been made at last to pass current for no less than thirty-six pounds!
END OF VOL. I.
- ↑ Bacon's Henry VII.
- ↑ In the notice of Remarkable Occurrences in the reign of Henry VII., in Rennet's Complete History, it is said, without any authority being given, that, in the seventeenth year of the reign, Sebastian Cabot brought three Indians into England, who were clothed in beasts' skins, and eat raw flesh. "Two of them," it is added, "were seen two years after, dressed like Englishmen, and not to be distinguished from them."
- ↑ Fœdera, vol. xiii.
- ↑ See note on Anderson's Hist. of Commerce, by Macpherson, vol. ii. p. 42, and the authorities there referred to. "She cumbered all Scotland," says Lindsay of Pitscottie, "to put her to the sea; and when she was committit to float, with her masts and sails complete, with tows [ropes] and anchors effeiring [appertaining] thereto, she was counted to the king to forty thousand pounds of expenses by her orders and cannons whilk she bare."
- ↑ See Strype's Eccles. Mem. iii. 77, &c., where are printed the entries respecting the affair of the Steelyard Company, from the Council Book.—Burnet, Hist. Ref. under 1552.—King Edward's Journal.—Wheeler's Treatise of Commerce, 1601.—Anderson's Hist, of Commerce, ii. 109, &c.
- ↑ See Jenkinson's Voyage in Purchas and Hakluyt.
- ↑ Of this act the title only is printed among the Statutes of the Realm:—"An Act for the Corporation of Merchant Adventurers for the Discovery of New Trades."
- ↑ Translation in Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, ii. 127.
- ↑ See Barney's Discoveries in the South Sea, vol. ii. p. 103.
- ↑ Macpherson's History of the European Commerce with India, 4to. 1812, pp. 72—82.
- ↑ Virginia originally comprehended both the present state of that name and the adjoining country of North Carolina.
- ↑ "These men," says Camden, "who were thus brought back, were the first that I know of that brought into England that Indian plant which they call tabacca and nicotia or tobacco, which they used against crudities, being taught it by the Indians. Certainly from that time forward it began to grow into great request, and to be sold at a high rate, whilst in a short time many men everywhere, some for wantonness, some for health sake, with insatiable desire and greediness, sucked in the stinking smoke thereof through an earthen pipe, which presently they blew out again at their nostrils; insomuch that tobacco-shops are now as ordinary in most towns as tap-houses and taverns."
- ↑ Burchet's History of Transactions at Sea, as quoted by Anderson.
- ↑ Original List in the State Paper Office, as quoted in Tytler's Life of Raleigh, p. 84.
- ↑ Burghley, State Papers, ii. 615, &c.
- ↑ Happy Future State of England, fol. Lon. 1689, p. 127. For these statements the author quotes a remonstrance of the Corporation of the Trinity House, in 1602, to the Lord High Admiral the Earl of Nottingham, extant in Sir Julius Cæsar's Collections. The author of the Happy Future State of England has been said to be James Annesley, Earl of Anglesey; according to another account, the work was written by Sir Peter Pet.
- ↑ Tytler, Hist. Scot. v. 7.
- ↑ Note by Macpherson, in Annals of Commerce, vol. ii. p. 86.
- ↑ Hist. Ac. of English Money, p. 177.
- ↑ Leake, p. 195.
- ↑ A groat and a half groat coined by Cardinal Wolsey, as Archbishop of York, are among the curiosities of the coinage of this reign. These pieces, on the sides of the shield containing the royal arms, displayed the letters T. W., for Thomas Wolsey, and underneath the cardinal's hat. "It was an article of the cardinal's impeachment," says Leake, "that he presumptuously imprinted the cardinal's hat under the king's arms upon his majesty's coins of groats made at York, which had never been done by any subject before. So that his crime was not for coining money with the cardinal's hat thereon—for the smaller coins, which bore the same stamp, are not taken notice of—but for coining groats, which had never been done by any subject before; but, as to small money, it had been immemorially coined in the bishop's mints at Canterbury, York, and Durham. But this power dwindled away with the pope's authority here, and was discontinued after this reign; Edward Lee, Wolsey's successor, being the last that used this privilege."