The Complete English Tradesman (1839 ed.)
by Daniel Defoe
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Secondly, he should do it for his children's sake, if he has any, that if the wife have any knowledge of the business, and has a son to breed up to it, though he be not yet of age to take it up, she may keep the trade for him, and introduce him into it, that so he may take the trouble off her hands, and she may have the satisfaction of preserving the father's trade for the benefit of his son, though left too young to enter upon it at first.

Thus I have known many a widow that would have thought it otherwise below her, has engaged herself in her husbands's business, and carried it on, purely to bring her eldest son up to it, and has preserved it for him, and which has been an estate to him, whereas otherwise it must have been lost, and he would have had the world to seek for a new business.

This is a thing which every honest affectionate mother would, or at least should, be so willing to do for a son, that she, I think, who would not, ought not to marry a tradesman at all; but if she would think herself above so important a trust for her own children, she should likewise think herself above having children by a tradesman, and marry somebody whose children she would act the mother for.

But every widow is not so unnatural, and I am willing to suppose the tradesman I am writing to shall be better married, and, therefore, I give over speaking to the woman's side, and I will suppose the tradesman's wife not to be above her quality, and willing to be made acquainted with her husband's affairs, as well as to be helpful to him, if she can, as to be in a condition to be helpful to herself and her family, if she comes to have occasion. But, then, the difficulty often lies on the other side the question, and the tradesman cares not to lay open his business to, or acquaint his wife with it; and many circumstances of the tradesman draw him into this snare; for I must call it a snare both to him and to her.

I. The tradesman is foolishly vain of making his wife a gentlewoman, and, forsooth, he will have her sit above in the parlour, and receive visits, and drink tea, and entertain her neighbours, or take a coach and go abroad; but as to the business, she shall not stoop to touch it; he has apprentices and journeymen, and there is no need of it.

II. Some trades, indeed, are not proper for the women to meddle in, or custom has made it so, that it would be ridiculous for the women to appear in their shops; that is, such as linen and woollen drapers, mercers, booksellers, goldsmiths, and all sorts of dealers by commission, and the like—custom, I say, has made these trades so effectually shut out the women, that, what with custom, and the women's generally thinking it below them, we never, or rarely, see any women in those shops or warehouses.

III. Or if the trade is proper, and the wife willing, the husband declines it, and shuts her out—and this is the thing I complain of as an unjustice upon the woman. But our tradesmen, forsooth, think it an undervaluing to them and to their business to have their wives seen in their shops—that is to say, that, because other trades do not admit them, therefore they will not have their trades or shops thought less masculine or less considerable than others, and they will not have their wives be seen in their shops.

IV. But there are two sorts of husbands more who decline acquainting their wives with their business; and those are, (1.) Those who are unkind, haughty, and imperious, who will not trust their wives, because they will not make them useful, that they may not value themselves upon it, and make themselves, as it were, equal to their husbands. A weak, foolish, and absurd suggestion! as if the wife were at all exalted by it, which, indeed, is just the contrary, for the woman is rather humbled and made a servant by it: or, (2.) The other sort are those who are afraid their wives should be let into the grand secret of all—namely, to know that they are bankrupt, and undone, and worth nothing.

All these considerations are foolish or fraudulent, and in every one of them the husband is in the wrong—nay, they all argue very strongly for the wife's being, in a due degree, let into the knowledge of their business; but the last, indeed, especially that she may be put into a posture to save him from ruin, if it be possible, or to carry on some business without him, if he is forced to fail, and fly; as many have been, when the creditors have encouraged the wife to carry on a trade for the support of her family and children, when he perhaps may never show his head again.

But let the man's case be what it will, I think he can never call it a hard shift to let his wife into an acquaintance with his business, if she desires it, and is fit for it; and especially in case of mortality, that she may not be left helpless and friendless with her children when her husband is gone, and when, perhaps, her circumstances may require it.

I am not for a man setting his wife at the head of his business, and placing himself under her like a journeyman, like a certain china-seller, not far from the East India House, who, if any customers came into the shop that made a mean, sorry figure, would leave them to her husband to manage and attend them; but if they looked like quality, and people of fashion, would come up to her husband, when he was showing them his goods, putting him by with a 'Hold your tongue, Tom, and let me talk.' I say, it is not this kind, or part, that I would have the tradesman's wife let into, but such, and so much, of the trade only as may be proper for her, not ridiculous, in the eye of the world, and may make her assisting and helpful, not governing to him, and, which is the main thing I am at, such as should qualify her to keep up the business for herself and children, if her husband should be taken away, and she be left destitute in the world, as many are.

Thus much, I think, it is hard a wife should not know, and no honest tradesman ought to refuse it; and above all, it is a great pity the wives of tradesmen, who so often are reduced to great inconvenience for want of it, should so far withstand their own felicity, as to refuse to be thus made acquainted with their business, by which weak and foolish pride they expose themselves, as I have observed, to the misfortune of throwing the business away, when they may come to want it, and when the keeping it up might be the restoring of their family, and providing for their children.

For, not to compliment tradesmen too much, their wives are not all ladies, nor are their children all born to be gentlemen. Trade, on the contrary, is subject to contingencies; some begin poor, and end rich; others, and those very many, begin rich, and end poor: and there are innumerable circumstances which may attend a tradesman's family, which may make it absolutely necessary to preserve the trade for his children, if possible; the doing which may keep them from misery, and raise them all in the world, and the want of it, on the other hand, sinks and suppresses them. For example:—

A tradesman has begun the world about six or seven years; he has, by his industry and good understanding in business, just got into a flourishing trade, by which he clears five or six hundred pounds a-year; and if it should please God to spare his life for twenty years or more, he would certainly be a rich man, and get a good estate; but on a sudden, and in the middle of all his prosperity, he is snatched away by a sudden fit of sickness, and his widow is left in a desolate despairing condition, having five children, and big with another; but the eldest of these is not above six years old, and, though he is a boy, yet he is utterly incapable to be concerned in the business; so the trade which (had his father lived to bring him up in his shop or warehouse) would have been an estate to him, is like to be lost, and perhaps go all away to the eldest apprentice, who, however, wants two years of his time. Now, what is to be done for this unhappy family?

'Done!' says the widow; 'why, I will never let the trade fall so, that should be the making of my son, and in the meantime be the maintenance of all my children.'

'Why, what can you do, child?' says her father, or other friends; 'you know nothing of it. Mr —— did not acquaint you with his business.'

'That is true,' says the widow; 'he did not, because I was a fool, and did not care to look much into it, and that was my fault. Mr —— did not press me to it, because he was afraid I might think he intended to put me upon it; but he often used to say, that if he should drop off before his boys were fit to come into the shop, it would be a sad loss to them—that the trade would make gentlemen of a couple of them, and it would be great pity it should go away from them.'

'But what does that signify now, child?' adds the father; 'you see it is so; and how can it be helped?'

'Why,' says the widow, 'I used to ask him if he thought I could carry it on for them, if such a thing should happen?'

'And what answer did he make?' says the father.

'He shook his head,' replied the widow, 'and answered, "Yes, I might, if I had good servants, and if I would look a little into it beforehand."'

'Why,' says the father, 'he talked as if he had foreseen his end.'

'I think he did foresee it,' says she, 'for he was often talking thus.'

'And why did you not take the hint then,' says her father, 'and acquaint yourself a little with things, that you might have been prepared for such an unhappy circumstance, whatever might happen?'

'Why, so I did,' says the widow, 'and have done for above two years past; he used to show me his letters, and his books, and I know where he bought every thing; and I know a little of goods too, when they are good, and when bad, and the prices; also I know all the country-people he dealt with, and have seen most of them, and talked with them. Mr—— used to bring them up to dinner sometimes, and he would prompt my being acquainted with them, and would sometimes talk of his business with them at table, on purpose that I might hear it; and I know a little how to sell, too, for I have stood by him sometimes, and seen the customers and him chaffer with one another.'

'And did your husband like that you did so?' says the father.

'Yes,' says she, 'he loved to see me do it, and often told me he did so; and told me, that if he were dead, he believed I might carry on the trade as well as he.'

'But he did not believe so, I doubt,' says the father.

'I do not know as to that, but I sold goods several times to some customers, when he has been out of the way.'

'And was he pleased with it when he came home? Did you do it to his mind?'

'Nay, I have served a customer sometimes when he has been in the warehouse, and he would go away to his counting-house on purpose, and say, "I'll leave you and my wife to make the bargain," and I have pleased the customer and him too.'

'Well,' says the father, 'do you think you could carry on the trade?'

'I believe I could, if I had but an honest fellow of a journeyman for a year or two to write in the books, and go abroad among customers.'

'Well, you have two apprentices; one of them begins to understand things very much, and seems to be a diligent lad.'

'He comes forward, indeed, and will be very useful, if he does not grow too forward, upon a supposition that I shall want him too much: but it will be necessary to have a man to be above him for a while.'

'Well,' says the father, 'we will see to get you such a one.'

In short, they got her a man to assist to keep the books, go to Exchange, and do the business abroad, and the widow carried on the business with great application and success, till her eldest son grew up, and was first taken into the shop as an apprentice to his mother; the eldest apprentice served her faithfully, and was her journeyman four years after his time was out; then she took him in partner to one-fourth of the trade, and when her son came of age, she gave the apprentice one of her daughters, and enlarged his share to a third, gave her own son another third, and kept a third for herself to support the family.

Thus the whole trade was preserved, and the son and son-in-law grew rich in it, and the widow, who grew as skilful in the business as her husband was before her, advanced the fortunes of all the rest of her children very considerably.

This was an example of the husband's making the wife (but a little) acquainted with his business; and if this had not been the case, the trade had been lost, and the family left just to divide what the father left; which, as they were seven of them, mother and all, would not have been considerable enough to have raised them above just the degree of having bread to eat, and none to spare.

I hardly need give any examples where tradesmen die, leaving nourishing businesses, and good trades, but leaving their wives ignorant and destitute, neither understanding their business, nor knowing how to learn, having been too proud to stoop to it when they had husbands, and not courage or heart to do it when they have none. The town is so full of such as these, that this book can scarce fall into the hands of any readers but who will be able to name them among their own acquaintance.

These indolent, lofty ladies have generally the mortification to see their husbands' trades catched up by apprentices or journeymen in the shop, or by other shopkeepers in the neighbourhood, and of the same business, that might have enriched them, and descended to their children; to see their bread carried away by strangers, and other families flourishing on the spoils of their fortunes.

And this brings me to speak of those ladies, who, though they do, perhaps, for want of better offers, stoop to wed a trade, as we call it, and take up with a mechanic; yet all the while they are the tradesmen's wives, they endeavour to preserve the distinction of their fancied character; carry themselves as if they thought they were still above their station, and that, though they were unhappily yoked with a tradesman, they would still keep up the dignity of their birth, and be called gentlewomen; and in order to this, would behave like such all the way, whatever rank they were levelled with by the misfortune of their circumstances.

This is a very unhappy, and, indeed, a most unseasonable kind of pride; and if I might presume to add a word here by way of caution to such ladies, it should be to consider, before they marry tradesmen, the great disadvantages they lay themselves under, in submitting to be a tradesman's wife, but not putting themselves in a condition to take the benefit, as well as the inconvenience of it; for while they are above the circumstances of the tradesman's wife, they are deprived of all the remedy against the miseries of a tradesman's widow; and if the man dies, and leaves them little or nothing but the trade to carry on and maintain them, they, being unacquainted with that, are undone.

A lady that stoops to marry a tradesman, should consider the usage of England among the gentry and persons of distinction, where the case is thus: if a lady, who has a title of honour, suppose it be a countess, or if she were a duchess, it is all one—if, I say, she stoop to marry a private gentleman, she ceases to rank for the future as a countess, or duchess, but must be content to be, for the time to come, what her husband can entitle her to, and no other; and, excepting the courtesy of the people calling her my Lady Duchess, or the Countess, she is no more than plain Mrs such a one, meaning the name of her husband, and no other.

Thus, if a baronet's widow marry a tradesman in London, she is no more my lady, but plain Mrs——, the draper's wife, &c. The application of the thing is thus: if the lady think fit to marry a mechanic, say a glover, or a cutler, or whatever it is, she should remember she is a glover's wife from that time, and no more; and to keep up her dignity, when fortune has levelled her circumstances, is but a piece of unseasonable pageantry, and will do her no service at all. The thing she is to inquire is, what she must do if Mr——, the glover, or cutler, should die? whether she can carry on the trade afterwards, or whether she can live without it? If she find she cannot live without it, it is her prudence to consider in time, and so to acquaint herself with the trade, that she may be able to do it when she comes to it.

I do confess, there is nothing more ridiculous than the double pride of the ladies of this age, with respect to marrying what they call below their birth. Some ladies of good families, though but of mean fortune, are so stiff upon the point of honour, that they refuse to marry tradesmen, nay, even merchants, though vastly above them in wealth and fortune, only because they are tradesmen, or, as they are pleased to call them, though improperly, mechanics; and though perhaps they have not above L500 or L1000 to their portion, scorn the man for his rank, who does but turn round, and has his choice of wives, perhaps, with two, or three, or four thousand pounds, before their faces.

The gentlemen of quality, we see, act upon quite another foot, and, I may say, with much more judgment, seeing nothing is more frequent than when any noble family are loaded with titles and honour rather than fortune, they come down into the city, and choose wives among the merchants' and tradesmen's daughters to raise their families; and I am mistaken, if at this time we have not several duchesses, countesses, and ladies of rank, who are the daughters of citizens and tradesmen, as the Duchess of Bedford, of A——e, of Wharton, and others; the Countess of Exeter, of Onslow, and many more, too many to name, where it is thought no dishonour at all for those persons to have matched into rich families, though not ennobled; and we have seen many trading families lay the foundation of nobility by their wealth and opulence—as Mr Child, for example, afterwards Sir Josiah Child, whose posterity by his two daughters are now Dukes of Beaufort and of Bedford, and his grandson Lord Viscount Castlemain, and yet he himself began a tradesman, and in circumstances very mean.

But this stiffness of the ladies, in refusing to marry tradesmen, though it is weak in itself, is not near so weak as the folly of those who first do stoop to marry thus, and yet think to maintain the dignity of their birth in spite of the meanness of their fortune, and so, carrying themselves above that station in which Providence has placed them, disable themselves from receiving the benefit which their condition offers them, upon any subsequent changes of their life.

This extraordinary stiffness, I have known, has brought many a well-bred gentlewoman to misery and the utmost distress, whereas, had they been able to have stooped to the subsequent circumstances of life, which Providence also thought fit to make their lot, they might have lived comfortably and plentifully all their days.

It is certainly every lady's prudence to bring her spirit down to her condition; and if she thinks fit, or it is any how her lot to marry a tradesman, which many ladies of good families have found it for their advantage to do—I say, if it be her lot, she should take care she does not make that a curse to her, which would be her blessing, by despising her own condition, and putting herself into a posture not to enjoy it.

In all this, I am to be understood to mean that unhappy temper, which I find so much among the tradesman's wives at this time, of being above taking any notice of their husband's affairs, as if nothing were before them but a constant settled state of prosperity, and it were impossible for them to taste any other fortune; whereas, that very hour they embark with a tradesman, they ought to remember that they are entering a state of life full of accidents and hazards, and that innumerable families, in as good circumstances as theirs, fall every day into disasters and misfortunes, and that a tradesman's condition is liable to more casualties than any other life whatever.

How many widows of tradesmen, nay, and wives of broken and ruined tradesmen, do we daily see recover themselves and their shattered families, when the man has been either snatched away by death, or demolished by misfortunes, and has been forced to fly to the East or West Indies, and forsake his family in search of bread?

Women, when once they give themselves leave to stoop to their own circumstances, and think fit to rouse up themselves to their own relief, are not so helpless and shiftless creatures as some would make them appear in the world; and we see whole families in trade frequently recovered by their industry: but, then, they are such women as can stoop to it, and can lay aside the particular pride of their first years; and who, without looking back to what they have been, can be content to look into what Providence has brought them to be, and what they must infallibly be, if they do not vigorously apply to the affairs which offer, and fall into the business which their husbands leave them the introduction to, and do not level their minds to their condition. It may, indeed, be hard to do this at first, but necessity is a spur to industry, and will make things easy where they seem difficult; and this necessity will humble the minds of those whom nothing else could make to stoop; and where it does not, it is a defect of the understanding, as well as of prudence, and must reflect upon the senses as well as the morals of the person.


[35] [Most of the wives of tradesmen above a certain rather humble condition would now smile at the idea of their being expected to attend their husbands' shops, in order to form an intimate acquaintance with their affairs. Doubtless, however, in the days of Defoe, when the capitals of tradesmen were less, when provision for widows by insurance upon lives was not practised, and when the comparative simplicity of the modes of conducting business admitted it, a female in that situation would only be exercising a prudent caution, and doing nothing in the least inconsistent with the delicacy of her sex, in obeying the rules laid down in the text.]

[36] [The number of widows, or at least females, carrying on trade in England, is still very considerable. In Scotland, it is a comparatively rare case. A native of the northern part of the island is apt to be strongly impressed with this fact, when, in the large manufacturing towns of England, he sees female names in so many cases inscribed upon the waggons used in the transport of goods. The complaint in the text, that females have, to such an extent, ceased to carry on the business of their deceased husbands, is probably, like many other complaints of the same kind already pointed out, merely a piece of querulousness on the part of our author, or the result of a very common mental deception.]



It is said of England, by way of distinction, and we all value ourselves upon it, that it is a trading country; and King Charles II., who was perhaps that prince of all the kings that ever reigned in England, that best understood the country and the people that he governed, used to say, 'That the tradesmen were the only gentry in England.' His majesty spoke it merrily, but it had a happy signification in it, such as was peculiar to the bright genius of that prince, who, though he was not the best governor, was the best acquainted with the world of all the princes of his age, if not of all the men in it; and, though it be a digression, give me leave, after having quoted the king, to add three short observations of my own, in favour of England, and of the people and trade of it, and yet without the least partiality to our own country.

I. We are not only a trading country, but the greatest trading country in the world.

II. Our climate is the most agreeable climate in the world to live in.

III. Our Englishmen are the stoutest and best men (I mean what we call men of their hands) in the world.

These are great things to advance in our own favour, and yet to pretend not to be partial too; and, therefore, I shall give my reasons, which I think support my opinion, and they shall be as short as the heads themselves, that I may not go too much off from my subject.

1. We are the greatest trading country in the world, because we have the greatest exportation of the growth and product of our land, and of the manufacture and labour of our people; and the greatest importation and consumption of the growth, product, and manufactures of other countries from abroad, of any nation in the world.[37]

2. Our climate is the best and most agreeable, because a man can be more out of doors in England than in other countries. This was King Charles II.'s reason for it, and I cannot name it, without doing justice to his majesty in it.

3. Our men are the stoutest and best, because, strip them naked from the waist upwards, and give them no weapons at all but their hands and heels, and turn them into a room, or stage, and lock them in with the like number of other men of any nation, man for man, and they shall beat the best men you shall find in the world.

From this digression, which I hope will not be disagreeable, as it is not very tedious, I come back to my first observation, that England is a trading country, and two things I offer from that head.

First, our tradesmen are not, as in other countries, the meanest of our people.

Secondly, some of the greatest and best, and most flourishing families, among not the gentry only, but even the nobility, have been raised from trade, owe their beginning, their wealth, and their estates, to trade; and, I may add,

Thirdly, those families are not at all ashamed of their original, and, indeed, have no occasion to be ashamed of it.

It is true, that in England we have a numerous and an illustrious nobility and gentry; and it is true, also, that not so many of those families have raised themselves by the sword as in other nations, though we have not been without men of fame in the field too.

But trade and learning have been the two chief steps by which our gentlemen have raised their relations, and have built their fortunes; and from which they have ascended up to the prodigious height, both in wealth and number, which we see them now risen to.

As so many of our noble and wealthy families are raised by, and derive from trade, so it is true, and, indeed, it cannot well be otherwise, that many of the younger branches of our gentry, and even of the nobility itself, have descended again into the spring from whence they flowed, and have become tradesmen; and thence it is, that, as I said above, our tradesmen in England are not, as it generally is in other countries, always of the meanest of our people.

Indeed, I might have added here, that trade itself in England is not, as it generally is in other countries, the meanest thing the men can turn their hand to; but, on the contrary, trade is the readiest way for men to raise their fortunes and families; and, therefore, it is a field for men of figure and of good families to enter upon.

N.B. By trade we must be understood to include navigation, and foreign discoveries, because they are, generally speaking, all promoted and carried on by trade, and even by tradesmen, as well as merchants; and the tradesmen are at this time as much concerned in shipping (as owners) as the merchants; only the latter may be said to be the chief employers of the shipping.

Having thus done a particular piece of justice to ourselves, in the value we put upon trade and tradesmen in England, it reflects very much upon the understanding of those refined heads, who pretend to depreciate that part of the nation, which is so infinitely superior in number and in wealth to the families who call themselves gentry, or quality, and so infinitely more numerous.

As to the wealth of the nation, that undoubtedly lies chiefly among the trading part of the people; and though there are a great many families raised within few years, in the late war, by great employments, and by great actions abroad, to the honour of the English gentry; yet how many more families among the tradesmen have been raised to immense estates, even during the same time, by the attending circumstances of the war, such as the clothing, the paying, the victualling and furnishing, &c, both army and navy! And by whom have the prodigious taxes been paid, the loans supplied, and money advanced upon all occasions? By whom are the banks and companies carried on?—and on whom are the customs and excises levied? Have not the trade and tradesmen born the burden of the war?—and do they not still pay four millions a-year interest for the public debts? On whom are the funds levied, and by whom the public credit supported? Is not trade the inexhausted fund of all funds, and upon which all the rest depend?

As is the trade, so in proportion are the tradesmen; and how wealthy are tradesmen in almost all the several parts of England, as well as in London! How ordinary is it to see a tradesman go off the stage, even but from mere shopkeeping, with from ten to forty thousand pounds' estate, to divide among his family!—when, on the contrary, take the gentry in England from one end to the other, except a few here and there, what with excessive high living, which is of late grown so much into a disease, and the other ordinary circumstances of families, we find few families of the lower gentry, that is to say, from six or seven hundred a-year downwards, but they are in debt and in necessitous circumstances, and a great many of greater estates also.

On the other hand, let any one who is acquainted with England, look but abroad into the several counties, especially near London, or within fifty miles of it. How are the ancient families worn out by time and family misfortunes, and the estates possessed by a new race of tradesmen, grown up into families of gentry, and established by the immense wealth, gained, as I may say, behind the counter, that is, in the shop, the warehouse, and the counting-house! How are the sons of tradesmen ranked among the prime of the gentry! How are the daughters of tradesmen at this time adorned with the ducal coronets, and seen riding in the coaches of the best of our nobility! Nay, many of our trading gentlemen at this time refuse to be ennobled, scorn being knighted, and content themselves with being known to be rated among the richest commoners in the nation. And it must be acknowledged, that, whatever they be as to court-breeding and to manners, they, generally speaking, come behind none of the gentry in knowledge of the world.

At this very day we see the son of Sir Thomas Scawen matched into the ducal family of Bedford, and the son of Sir James Bateman into the princely house of Marlborough, both whose ancestors, within the memory of the writer of these sheets, were tradesmen in London; the first Sir William Scawen's apprentice, and the latter's grandfather a porter upon or near London Bridge.

How many noble seats, superior to the palaces of sovereign princes (in some countries) do we see erected within few miles of this city by tradesmen, or the sons of tradesmen, while the seats and castles of the ancient gentry, like their families, look worn out, and fallen into decay. Witness the noble house of Sir John Eyles, himself a merchant, at Giddy-hall near Rumford; Sir Gregory Page on Blackheath, the son of a brewer; Sir Nathaniel Mead near Wealgreen, his father a linen-draper, with many others too long to repeat; and, to crown all, the Lord Castlemains at Wanstead, his father Sir Josiah Child, originally a tradesman.

It was a smart, but just repartee, of a London tradesman, when a gentleman, who had a good estate too, rudely reproached him in company, and bade him hold his tongue, for he was no gentleman. 'No, Sir,' says he, 'but I can buy a gentleman, and therefore I claim a liberty to speak among gentlemen.'

Again, in how superior a port or figure (as we now call it) do our tradesmen live, to what the middling gentry either do or can support! An ordinary tradesman now, not in the city only, but in the country, shall spend more money by the year, than a gentleman of four or five hundred pounds a-year can do, and shall increase and lay up every year too, whereas the gentleman shall at the best stand stock still, just where he began, nay, perhaps decline; and as for the lower gentry, from a hundred pounds a-year to three hundred, or thereabouts, though they are often as proud and high in their appearance as the other—as to them, I say, a shoemaker in London shall keep a better house, spend more money, clothe his family better, and yet grow rich too. It is evident where the difference lies; an estate's a pond, but a trade's a spring: the first, if it keeps full, and the water wholesome, by the ordinary supplies and drains from the neighbouring grounds, it is well, and it is all that is expected; but the other is an inexhausted current, which not only fills the pond, and keeps it full, but is continually running over, and fills all the lower ponds and places about it.

This being the case in England, and our trade being so vastly great, it is no wonder that the tradesmen in England fill the lists of our nobility and gentry; no wonder that the gentlemen of the best families marry tradesmen's daughters, and put their younger sons apprentices to tradesmen; and how often do these younger sons come to buy the elder son's estates, and restore the family, when the elder, and head of the house, proving rakish and extravagant, has wasted his patrimony, and is obliged to make out the blessing of Israel's family, where the younger son bought the birthright, and the elder was doomed to serve him.

Trade is so far here from being inconsistent with a gentleman, that, in short, trade in England makes gentlemen, and has peopled this nation with gentlemen; for after a generation or two the tradesmen's children, or at least their grand-children, come to be as good gentlemen, statesmen, parliament-men, privy-counsellors, judges, bishops, and noblemen, as those of the highest birth and the most ancient families, and nothing too high for them. Thus the late Earl of Haversham was originally a merchant; the late Secretary Craggs was the son of a barber; the present Lord Castlemain's father was a tradesman; the great-grandfather of the present Duke of Bedford the same; and so of several others. Nor do we find any defect either in the genius or capacities of the posterity of tradesmen, arising from any remains of mechanic blood, which it is pretended should influence them, but all the gallantry of spirit, greatness of soul, and all the generous principles, that can be found in any of the ancient families, whose blood is the most untainted, as they call it, with the low mixtures of a mechanic race, are found in these; and, as is said before, they generally go beyond them in knowledge of the world, which is the best education.

We see the tradesmen of England, as they grow wealthy, coming every day to the Herald's Office, to search for the coats-of-arms of their ancestors, in order to paint them upon their coaches, and engrave them upon their plate, embroider them upon their furniture, or carve them upon the pediments of their new houses; and how often do we see them trace the registers of their families up to the prime nobility, or the most ancient gentry of the kingdom!

In this search we find them often qualified to raise new families, if they do not descend from old; as was said of a certain tradesman of London that if he could not find the ancient race of gentlemen from which he came, he would begin a new race, who should be as good gentlemen as any that went before them. They tell us a story of the old Lord Craven, who was afterwards created Earl of Craven by King Charles II., that, being upbraided with his being of an upstart nobility, by the famous Aubery, Earl of Oxford, who was himself of the very ancient family of the Veres, Earls of Oxford, the Lord Craven told him, he (Craven) would cap pedigrees with him (Oxford) for a wager. The Earl of Oxford laughed at the challenge, and began reckoning up his famous ancestors, who had been Earls of Oxford for a hundred years past, and knights for some hundreds of years more; but when my Lord Craven began, he read over his family thus:—'I am William Lord Craven; my father was Lord Mayor of London, and my grandfather was the Lord knows who; wherefore I think my pedigree as good as yours, my lord.' The story was merry enough, but is to my purpose exactly; for let the grandfather be who he would, his father, Sir William Craven, who was Lord Mayor of London, was a wholesale grocer, and raised the family by trade, and yet nobody doubts but that the family of Craven is at this day as truly noble, in all the beauties which adorn noble birth and blood, as can be desired of any family, however ancient, or anciently noble.

In Italy, and especially at Venice, we see every day the sons of merchants, and other trades, who grow in wealth and estates, and can advance for the service of their country a considerable sum of money, namely, 60,000 to 100,000 dollars, are accepted to honour by the senate, and translated into the list of the nobility, without any regard to the antiquities of their families, or the nobility of blood; and in all ages the best kings and sovereign princes have thought fit to reward the extraordinary merit of their subjects with titles of honour, and to rank men among their nobility, who have deserved it by good and great actions, whether their birth and the antiquity of their families entitled them to it or not.

Thus in the late wars between England and France, how was our army full of excellent officers, who went from the shop, and from behind the counter, into the camp, and who distinguished themselves there by their merit and gallant behaviour. And several such came to command regiments, and even to be general officers, and to gain as much reputation in the service as any; as Colonel Pierce, Wood, Richards, and several others that might be named.

All this confirms what I have said before, namely, that trade in England neither is nor ought to be levelled with what it is in other countries; nor the tradesmen depreciated as they are abroad, and as some of our gentry would pretend to do in England; but that, as many of our best families rose from trade, so many branches of the best families in England, under the nobility, have stooped so low as to be put apprentices to tradesmen in London, and to set up and follow those trades when they have come out of their times, and have thought it no dishonour to their blood.

To bring this once more home to the ladies, who are so scandalised at that mean step, which they call it, of marrying a tradesman—it may be told them for their humiliation, that, however they think fit to act, sometimes those tradesmen come of better families than their own; and oftentimes, when they have refused them to their loss, those very tradesmen have married ladies of superior fortune to them, and have raised families of their own, who in one generation have been superior to those nice ladies both in dignity and estate, and have, to their great mortification, been ranked above them upon all public occasions.

The word tradesman in England does not sound so harsh as it does in other countries; and to say a gentleman-tradesman, is not so much nonsense as some people would persuade us to reckon it: and, indeed, as trade is now flourishing in England, and increasing, and the wealth of our tradesmen is already so great, it is very probable a few years will show us still a greater race of trade-bred gentlemen, than ever England yet had.

The very name of an English tradesman will, and does already obtain in the world; and as our soldiers by the late war gained the reputation of being some of the best troops in the world, and our seamen are at this day, and very justly too, esteemed the best sailors in the world, so the English tradesmen may in a few years be allowed to rank with the best gentlemen in Europe; and as the prophet Isaiah said of the merchants of Tyre, that 'her traffickers were the honourable of the earth,' (Isaiah, xxiii. 8.)

In the meantime, it is evident their wealth at this time out-does that of the like rank of any nation in Europe; and as their number is prodigious, so is their commerce; for the inland commerce of England—and it is of those tradesmen, or traffickers, that I am now speaking in particular—is certainly the greatest of its kind of any in the world; nor is it possible there should ever be any like it, the consumption of all sorts of goods, both of our own manufacture, and of foreign growth, being so exceeding great.

If the English nation were to be nearly inquired into, and its present opulence and greatness duly weighed, it would appear, that, as the figure it now makes in Europe is greater than it ever made before—take it either in King Edward III.'s reign, or in Queen Elizabeth's, which were the two chief points of time when the English fame was in its highest extent—I say, if its present greatness were to be duly weighed, there is no comparison in its wealth, the number of its people, the value of its lands, the greatness of the estates of its private inhabitants; and, in consequence of all this, its real strength is infinitely beyond whatever it was before, and if it were needful, I could fill up this work with a very agreeable and useful inquiry into the particulars.

But I content myself with turning it to the case in hand, for the truth of fact is not to be disputed—I say, I turn it to the case in hand thus: whence comes it to be so?—how is it produced? War has not done it; no, nor so much as helped or assisted to it; it is not by any martial exploits; we have made no conquests abroad, added no new kingdoms to the British empire, reduced no neighbouring nations, or extended the possession of our monarchs into the properties of others; we have grained nothing by war and encroachment; we are butted and bounded just where we were in Queen Elizabeth's time; the Dutch, the Flemings, the French, are in view of us just as they were then. We have subjected no new provinces or people to our government; and, with few or no exceptions, we are almost for dominion where King Edward I. left us; nay, we have lost all the dominions which our ancient kings for some hundreds of years held in France—such as the rich and powerful provinces of Normandy, Poictou, Gascoigne, Bretagne, and Acquitaine; and instead of being enriched by war and victory, on the contrary we have been torn in pieces by civil wars and rebellions, as well in Ireland as in England, and that several times, to the ruin of our richest families, and the slaughter of our nobility and gentry, nay, to the destruction even of monarchy itself, and this many years at a time, as in the long bloody wars between the houses of Lancaster and York, the many rebellions of the Irish, as well in Queen Elizabeth's time, as in King Charles I.'s time, and the fatal massacre, and almost extirpation of the English name in that kingdom; and at last, the late rebellion in England, in which the monarch fell a sacrifice to the fury of the people, and monarchy itself gave way to tyranny and usurpation, for almost twenty years.

These things prove abundantly that the rising greatness of the British nation is not owing to war and conquests, to enlarging its dominion by the sword, or subjecting the people of other countries to our power; but it is all owing to trade, to the increase of our commerce at home, and the extending it abroad.

It is owing to trade, that new discoveries have been made in lands unknown, and new settlements and plantations made, new colonies placed, and new governments formed in the uninhabited islands, and the uncultivated continent of America; and those plantings and settlements have again enlarged and increased the trade, and thereby the wealth and power of the nation by whom they were discovered and planted. We have not increased our power, or the number of our subjects, by subduing the nations which possessed those countries, and incorporating them into our own, but have entirely planted our colonies, and peopled the countries with our own subjects, natives of this island; and, excepting the negroes, which we transport from Africa to America, as slaves to work in the sugar and tobacco plantations, all our colonies, as well in the islands as on the continent of America, are entirely peopled from Great Britain and Ireland, and chiefly the former; the natives having either removed farther up into the country, or by their own folly and treachery raising war against us, been destroyed and cut off.

As trade alone has peopled those countries, so trading with them has raised them also to a prodigy of wealth and opulence; and we see now the ordinary planters at Jamaica and Barbadoes rise to immense estates, riding in their coaches and six, especially at Jamaica, with twenty or thirty negroes on foot running before them whenever they please to appear in public.

As trade has thus extended our colonies abroad, so it has, except those colonies, kept our people at home, where they are multiplied to that prodigious degree, and do still continue to multiply in such a manner, that if it goes on so, time may come that all the lands in England will do little more than serve for gardens for them, and to feed their cows; and their corn and cattle be supplied from Scotland and Ireland.

What is the reason that we see numbers of French, and of Scots, and of Germans, in all the foreign nations in Europe, and especially filling up their armies and courts, and that you see few or no English there?

What is the reason, that when we want to raise armies, or to man navies in England, we are obliged to press the seamen, and to make laws and empower the justices of the peace, and magistrates of towns, to force men to go for soldiers, and enter into the service, or allure them by giving bounty-money, as an encouragement to men to list themselves?—whereas the people of other nations, and even the Scots and Irish, travel abroad, and run into all the neighbour nations, to seek service, and to be admitted into their pay.

What is it but trade?—the increase of business at home, and the employment of the poor in the business and manufactures of this kingdom, by which the poor get so good wages, and live so well, that they will not list for soldiers; and have so good pay in the merchants' service, that they will not serve on board the ships of war, unless they are forced to do it?

What is the reason, that, in order to supply our colonies and plantations with people, besides the encouragement given in those colonies to all people that will come there to plant and to settle, we are obliged to send away thither all our petty offenders, and all the criminals that we think fit to spare from the gallows, besides what we formerly called the kidnapping trade?—that is to say, the arts made use of to wheedle and draw away young vagrant and indigent people, and people of desperate fortunes, to sell themselves—that is, bind themselves for servants, the numbers of which are very great.

It is poverty fills armies, mans navies, and peoples colonies. In vain the drums beat for soldiers, and the king's captains invite seamen to serve in the armies for fivepence a-day, and in the royal navy for twenty-three shillings per month, in a country where the ordinary labourer can have nine shillings a-week for his labour, and the manufacturers earn from twelve to sixteen shillings a-week for their work, and while trade gives thirty shillings per month wages to the seamen on board merchant ships. Men will always stay or go, as the pay gives them encouragement; and this is the reason why it has been so much more difficult to raise and recruit armies in England, than it has been in Scotland and Ireland, France and Germany.

The same trade that keeps our people at home, is the cause of the well living of the people here; for as frugality is not the national virtue of England, so the people that get much spend much; and as they work hard, so they live well, eat and drink well, clothe warm, and lodge soft—in a word, the working manufacturing people of England eat the fat, and drink the sweet, live better, and fare better, than the working poor of any other nation in Europe; they make better wages of their work, and spend more of the money upon their backs and bellies, than in any other country. This expense of the poor, as it causes a prodigious consumption both of the provisions, and of the manufactures of our country at home, so two things are undeniably the consequence of that part.

1. The consumption of provisions increases the rent and value of the lands, and this raises the gentlemen's estates, and that again increases the employment of people, and consequently the numbers of them, as well those who are employed in the husbandry of land, breeding and feeding of cattle, &c, as of servants in the gentlemen's families, who, as their estates increase in value, so they increase their families and equipages.

2. As the people get greater wages, so they, I mean the same poorer part of the people, clothe better, and furnish better, and this increases the consumption of the very manufactures they make; then that consumption increases the quantity made, and this creates what we call inland trade, by which innumerable families are employed, and the increase of the people maintained, and by which increase of trade and people the present growing prosperity of this nation is produced.

The whole glory and greatness of England, then, being thus raised by trade, it must be unaccountable folly and ignorance in us to lessen that one article in our own esteem, which is the only fountain from whence we all, take us as a nation, are raised, and by which we are enriched and maintained. The Scripture says, speaking of the riches and glory of the city of Tyre—which was, indeed, at that time, the great port or emporium of the world for foreign commerce, from whence all the silks and fine manufactures of Persia and India were exported all over the western world—'That her merchants were princes;' and, in another place, 'By thy traffic thou hast increased thy riches.' (Ezek. xxviii. 5.) Certain it is, that our traffic has increased our riches; and it is also certain, that the flourishing of our manufactures is the foundation of all our traffic, as well our merchandise as our inland trade.

The inland trade of England is a thing not easily described; it would, in a word, take up a whole book by itself; it is the foundation of all our wealth and greatness; it is the support of all our foreign trade, and of our manufacturing, and, as I have hitherto written, of the tradesmen who carry it on. I shall proceed with a brief discourse of the trade itself.


[37] [We have here a pleasing trait of the superior sagacity of Defoe, in as far as it was a prevalent notion down to his time, and even later (nor is it, perhaps, altogether extinguished yet), that the prosperity of a country was marked by its excess of exports over imports. Defoe justly ranks the amount of importation on a level with that of exportation, as indicative of the well-being of the country.]



I have, in a few words, described what I mean by the inland trade of England, in the introduction to this work. It is the circulation of commerce among ourselves.

I. For the carrying on our manufactures of several kinds in the several counties where they are made, and the employing the several sorts of people and trades needful for the said manufactures.

II. For the raising and vending provisions of all kinds for the supply of the vast numbers of people who are employed every where by the said manufactures.

III. For the importing and bringing in from abroad all kinds of foreign growth and manufactures which we want.

IV. For the carrying about and dispersing, as well our own growth and manufactures as the foreign imported growth and manufactures of other nations, to the retailer, and by them to the last consumer, which is the utmost end of all trade; and this, in every part, to the utmost corner of the island of Great Britain and Ireland.

This I call inland trade, and these circulators of goods, and retailers of them to the last consumer, are those whom we are to understand by the word tradesmen, in all the parts of this work; for (as I observed in the beginning) the ploughmen and farmers who labour at home, and the merchant who imports our merchandise from abroad, are not at all meant or included, and whatever I have been saying, except where they have been mentioned in particular, and at length.

This inland trade is in itself at this time the wonder of all the world of trade, nor is there any thing like it now in the world, much less that exceeds it, or perhaps ever will be, except only what itself may grow up to in the ages to come; for, as I have said on all occasions, it is still growing and increasing.

By this prodigy of a trade, all the vast importation from our own colonies is circulated and dispersed to the remotest corner of the island, whereby the consumption is become so great, and by which those colonies are so increased, and are become so populous and so wealthy as I have already observed of them. This importation consists chiefly of sugars and tobacco, of which the consumption in Great Britain is scarcely to be conceived of, besides the consumption of cotton, indigo, rice, ginger, pimento or Jamaica pepper, cocoa or chocolate, rum and molasses, train-oil, salt-fish, whale-fin, all sorts of furs, abundance of valuable drugs, pitch, tar, turpentine, deals, masts, and timber, and many other things of smaller value; all which, besides the employing a very great number of ships and English seamen, occasion again a very great exportation of our own manufactures of all sorts to those colonies; which being circulated again for consumption there, that circulation is to be accounted a branch of home or inland trade, as those colonies are on all such occasions esteemed as a branch of part of ourselves, and of the British government in the world.

This trade to our West Indies and American colonies, is very considerable, as it employs so many ships and sailors, and so much of the growth of those colonies is again exported by us to other parts of the world, over and above what is consumed among us at home; and, also, as all those goods, and a great deal of money in specie, is returned hither for and in balance of our own manufactures and merchandises exported thither—on these accounts some have insisted that more real wealth is brought into Great Britain every year from those colonies, than is brought from the Spanish West Indies to old Spain, notwithstanding the extent of their dominion is above twenty times as much, and notwithstanding the vast quantity of gold and silver which they bring from the mines of Mexico, and the mountains of Potosi.[38]

Whether these people say true or no, is not my business to inquire here; though, if I may give my opinion, I must acknowledge that I believe they do; but be it so or not, it is certain that it is an infinitely extended trade, and daily increasing; and much of it, if not all, is and ought to be esteemed as an inland trade, because, as above, it is a circulation among ourselves.

As the manufactures of England, particularly those of wool (cotton wool included), and of silk, are the greatest, and amount to the greatest value of any single manufacture in Europe,[39] so they not only employ more people, but those people gain the most money, that is to say, have the best wages for their work of any people in the world; and yet, which is peculiar to England, the English manufactures are, allowing for their goodness, the cheapest at market of any in the world, too. Even France itself, after all the pains they are at to get our wool, and all the expense they have been at to imitate our manufactures, by getting over our workmen, and giving them even greater wages than they had here, have yet made so little proficiency in it, and are so far from outselling us in foreign markets, that they still, in spite of the strictest prohibitions, send hither, and to Holland and Germany, for English broad-cloths, druggets, duroys, flannels, serges, and several other sorts of our goods, to supply their own. Nor can they clothe themselves to their satisfaction with their own goods; but if any French gentleman of quality comes over hither from France, he is sure to bring no more coats with him than backs, but immediately to make him new clothes as soon as he arrives, and to carry as many new suits home with him at his return, as he can get leave to bring ashore when he comes there—a demonstration that our manufacture exceeds theirs, after all their boasts of it, both in goodness and in cheapness, even by their own confession. But I am not now to enter upon the particular manufactures, but the general trade in the manufacture; this particular being a trade of such a magnitude, it is to be observed for our purpose, that the greatness of it consists of two parts:—

1. The consumption of it at home, including our own plantations and factories.

2. The exportation of it to foreign parts, exclusive of the said plantations and factories.

It is the first of these which is the subject of my present discourse, because the tradesmen to whom, and for whose instruction these chapters are designed, are the people principally concerned in the making all these manufactures, and wholly and solely concerned in dispersing and circulating them for the home consumption; and this, with some additions, as explained above, I call inland trade.

The home-consumption of our own goods, as it is very great, so it has one particular circumstance attending it, which exceedingly increases it as a trade, and that is, that besides the numbers of people which it employs in the raising the materials, and making the goods themselves as a manufacture—I say, besides all this, there are multitudes of people employed, cattle maintained, with waggons and carts for the service on shore, barges and boats for carriage in the rivers, and ships and barks for carrying by sea, and all for the circulating these manufactures from one place to another, for the consumption of them among the people.

So that, in short, the circulation of the goods is a business not equal, indeed, but bearing a very great proportion to the trade itself.

This is owing to another particular circumstance of our manufacture, and perhaps is not so remarkably the case of any other manufacture or country in Europe, namely, that though all our manufactures are used and called for by almost all the people, and that in every part of the whole British dominion, yet they are made and wrought in their several distinct and respective countries in Britain, and some of them at the remotest distance from one another, hardly any two manufactures being made in one place. For example:

The broad-cloth and druggets in Wilts, Gloucester, and Worcestershire; serges in Devon and Somersetshire; narrow-cloths in Yorkshire and Staffordshire; kerseys, cottons, half-thicks, duffields, plains, and coarser things, in Lancashire and Westmoreland; shalloons in the counties of Northampton, Berks, Oxford, Southampton, and York; women's-stuffs in Norfolk; linsey-woolseys, &c, at Kidderminster; dimmeties and cotton-wares at Manchester; flannels at Salisbury, and in Wales; tammeys at Coventry; and the like. It is the same, in some respects, with our provisions, especially for the supply of the city of London, and also of several other parts: for example, when I speak of provisions, I mean such as are not made use of in the county where they are made and produced. For example:

Butter, in firkins, in Suffolk and Yorkshire; cheese from Cheshire, Wiltshire, Warwickshire, and Gloucestershire; herrings, cured red, from Yarmouth in Norfolk; coals, for fuel, from Northumberland and Durham; malt from the counties of Hertford, Essex, Kent, Bucks, Oxford, Berks, &c.

And thus of many other things which are the proper produce of one part of the country only, but are from thence dispersed for the ordinary use of the people into many, or perhaps into all the other counties of England, to the infinite advantage of our inland commerce, and employing a vast number of people and cattle; and consequently those people and cattle increasing the consumption of provisions and forage, and the improvement of lands; so true it is, and so visible, that trade increases people, and people increase trade.

This carriage of goods in England from those places is chiefly managed by horses and waggons; the number of which is not to be guessed at, nor is there any rule or art that can be thought of, by which any just calculation can be made of it, and therefore I shall not enter upon any particular of it at this time; it is sufficient to say, what I believe to be true, namely, that it is equal to the whole trade of some nations, and the rather because of the great improvement of land, which proceeds from the employing so many thousands of horses as are furnished for this part of business.

In other countries, and indeed, in most countries in Europe, all their inland trade, such as it is, is carried on by the convenience of navigation, either by coastings on the sea, or by river-navigation. It is true, our coasting trade is exceedingly great, and employs a prodigious number of ships, as well from all the shores of England to London, as from one port to another.

But as to our river-navigation, it is not equal to it, though in some places it is very great too; but we have but a very few navigable rivers in England, compared with those of other countries; nor are many of those rivers we have navigable to any considerable length from the sea. The most considerable rivers in England for navigation are as follows:—The Thames, the Trent, the Severn, the Wye, the Ouse, the Humber, the Air, and the Calder. These are navigable a considerable way, and receive several other navigable rivers into them; but except these there are very few rivers in England which are navigable much above the first town of note within their mouth.

Most of our other greatest and most navigable rivers are navigable but a very little way in; as the northern Ouse but to York, the Orwell but to Ipswich, the Yare but to Norwich; the Tyne itself but a very little above Newcastle, not in all above twelve miles; the Tweed not at all above Berwick; the great Avon but to Bristol; the Exe but to Exeter; and the Dee but to Chester: in a word, our river-navigation is not to be named for carriage, with the vast bulk of carriage by pack-horses and by waggons; nor must the carriage by pedlars on their backs be omitted.[40]

This carriage is the medium of our inland trade, and, as I said, is a branch of the trade itself. This great carriage is occasioned by the situation of our produce and manufactures. For example—the Taunton and Exeter serges, perpetuanas, and duroys, come chiefly by land; the clothing, such as the broad-cloth and druggets from Wilts, Gloucester, Worcester, and Shropshire, comes all by land-carriage to London, and goes down again by land-carriages to all parts of England; the Yorkshire clothing trade, the Manchester and Coventry trades, all by land, not to London only, but to all parts of England, by horse-packs—the Manchester men being, saving their wealth, a kind of pedlars, who carry their goods themselves to the country shopkeepers every where, as do now the Yorkshire and Coventry manufacturers also.

Now, in all these manufactures, however remote from one another, every town in England uses something, not only of one or other, but of all the rest. Every sort of goods is wanted every where; and where they make one sort of goods, and sell them all over England, they at the same time want other goods from almost every other part. For example:

Norwich makes chiefly woollen stuffs and camblets, and these are sold all over England; but then Norwich buys broad-cloth from Wilts and Worcestershire, serges and sagathies from Devon and Somersetshire, narrow cloth from Yorkshire, flannel from Wales, coal from Newcastle, and the like; and so it is, mutatis mutandis, of most of the other parts.

The circulating of these goods in this manner, is the life of our inland trade, and increases the numbers of our people, by keeping them employed at home; and, indeed, of late they are prodigiously multiplied; and they again increase our trade, as shall be mentioned in its place.

As the demand for all sorts of English goods is thus great, and they are thus extended in every part of the island, so the tradesmen are dispersed and spread over every part also; that is to say, in every town, great or little, we find shopkeepers, wholesale or retail, who are concerned in this circulation, and hand forward the goods to the last consumer. From London, the goods go chiefly to the great towns, and from those again to the smaller markets, and from those to the meanest villages; so that all the manufactures of England, and most of them also of foreign countries, are to be found in the meanest village, and in the remotest corner of the whole island of Britain, and are to be bought, as it were, at every body's door.

This shows not the extent of our manufactures only, but the usefulness of them, and how they are so necessary to mankind that our own people cannot be without them, and every sort of them, and cannot make one thing serve for another; but as they sell their own, so they buy from others, and every body here trades with every body: this it is that gives the whole manufacture so universal a circulation, and makes it so immensely great in England. What it is abroad, is not so much to our present purpose.

Again, the magnitude of the city of London adds very considerably to the greatness of the inland trade; for as this city is the centre of our trade, so all the manufactures are brought hither, and from hence circulated again to all the country, as they are particularly called for. But that is not all; the magnitude of the city influences the whole nation also in the article of provisions, and something is raised in every county in England, however remote, for the supply of London; nay, all the best of every produce is brought hither; so that all the people, and all the lands in England, seem to be at work for, or employed by, or on the account of, this overgrown city.

This makes the trade increase prodigiously, even as the city itself increases; and we all know the city is very greatly increased within few years past. Again, as the whole nation is employed to feed and clothe this city, so here is the money, by which all the people in the whole nation seem to be supported and maintained.

I have endeavoured to make some calculation of the number of shopkeepers in this kingdom, but I find it is not to be done—we may as well count the stars; not that they are equal in number neither, but it is as impossible, unless any one person corresponded so as to have them numbered in every town or parish throughout the kingdom. I doubt not they are some hundreds of thousands, but there is no making an estimate—the number is in a manner infinite. It is as impossible likewise to make any guess at the bulk of their trade, and how much they return yearly; nor, if we could, would it give any foundation for any just calculation of the value of goods in general, because all our goods circulate so much, and go so often through so many hands before they come to the consumer. This so often passing every sort of goods through so many hands, before it comes into the hands of the last consumer, is that which makes our trade be so immensely great. For example, if there is made in England for our home-consumption the value of L100,000 worth of any particular goods, say, for example, that it be so many pieces of serge or cloth, and if this goes through ten tradesmen's hands, before it comes to the last consumer, then there is L1,000,000 returned in trade for that L100,000 worth of goods; and so of all the sorts of goods we trade in.

Again, as I said above, all our manufactures are so useful to, and depend on, one another so much in trade, that the sale of one necessarily causes the demand of the other in all parts. For example, suppose the poorest countryman wants to be clothed, or suppose it be a gentleman wants to clothe one of his servants, whether a footman in a livery, or suppose it be any servant in ordinary apparel, yet he shall in some part employ almost every one of the manufacturing counties of England, for making up one ordinary suit of clothes. For example:

If his coat be of woollen-cloth, he has that from Yorkshire; the lining is shalloon from Berkshire; the waistcoat is of callamanco from Norwich; the breeches of a strong drugget from Devizes, Wiltshire; the stockings being of yarn from Westmoreland; the hat is a felt from Leicester; the gloves of leather from Somersetshire; the shoes from Northampton; the buttons from Macclesfield in Cheshire, or, if they are of metal, they come from Birmingham, or Warwickshire; his garters from Manchester; his shirt of home-made linen of Lancashire, or Scotland.

If it be thus of every poor man's clothing, or of a servant, what must it be of the master, and of the rest of the family? And in this particular the case is the same, let the family live where they will; so that all these manufactures must be found in all the remotest towns and counties in England, be it where you will.

Again, take the furnishing of our houses, it is the same in proportion, and according to the figure and quality of the person. Suppose, then, it be a middling tradesman that is going to live in some market-town, and to open his shop there; suppose him not to deal in the manufacture, but in groceries, and such sort of wares as the country grocers sell.

This man, however, must clothe himself and his wife, and must furnish his house: let us see, then, to how many counties and towns, among our manufactures, must he send for his needful supply. Nor is the quantity concerned in it; let him furnish himself as frugally as he pleases, yet he must have something of every necessary thing; and we will suppose for the present purpose the man lived in Sussex, where very few, if any, manufactures are carried on; suppose he lived at Horsham, which is a market-town in or near the middle of the county.

For his clothing of himself—for we must allow him to have a new suit of clothes when he begins the world—take them to be just as above; for as to the quality or quantity, it is much the same; only, that instead of buying the cloth from Yorkshire, perhaps he has it a little finer than the poor man above, and so his comes out of Wiltshire, and his stockings are, it may be, of worsted, not of yarn, and so they come from Nottingham, not Westmoreland; but this does not at all alter the case.

Come we next to his wife; and she being a good honest townsman's daughter, is not dressed over fine, yet she must have something decent, being newly married too, especially as times go, when the burghers' wives of Horsham, or any other town, go as fine as they do in other places: allow her, then, to have a silk gown, with all the necessaries belonging to a middling tolerable appearance, yet you shall find all the nation more or less concerned in clothing this country grocer's wife, and furnishing his house, and yet nothing at all extravagant. For example:

Her gown, a plain English mantua-silk, manufactured in Spitalfields; her petticoat the same; her binding, a piece of chequered-stuff, made at Bristol and Norwich; her under-petticoat, a piece of black callamanco, made at Norwith—quilted at home, if she be a good housewife, but the quilting of cotton from Manchester, or cotton-wool from abroad; her inner-petticoats, flannel and swanskin, from Salisbury and Wales; her stockings from Tewksbury, if ordinary, from Leicester, if woven; her lace and edgings from Stony Stratford the first, and Great Marlow the last; her muslin from foreign trade, as likewise her linen, being something finer than the man's, may perhaps be a guilick-Holland; her wrapper, or morning-gown, a piece of Irish linen, printed at London; her black hood, a thin English lustring; her gloves, lamb's-skin, from Berwick and Northumberland, or Scotland; her ribands, being but very few, from Coventry, or London; her riding-hood, of English worsted-camblet, made at Norwich.

Come next to the furniture of their house. It is scarce credible, to how many counties of England, and how remote, the furniture of but a mean house must send them, and how many people are every where employed about it; nay, and the meaner the furniture, the more people and places employed. For example:

The hangings, suppose them to be ordinary linsey-woolsey, are made at Kidderminster, dyed in the country, and painted, or watered, at London; the chairs, if of cane, are made at London; the ordinary matted chairs, perhaps in the place where they live; tables, chests of drawers, &c., made at London; as also looking-glass; bedding, &c., the curtains, suppose of serge from Taunton and Exeter, or of camblets, from Norwich, or the same with the hangings, as above; the ticking comes from the west country, Somerset and Dorsetshire; the feathers also from the same country; the blankets from Whitney in Oxfordshire; the rugs from Westmoreland and Yorkshire; the sheets, of good linen, from Ireland; kitchen utensils and chimney-furniture, almost all the brass and iron from Birmingham and Sheffield; earthen-ware from Stafford, Nottingham, and Kent; glass ware from Sturbridge in Worcestershire, and London.

I give this list to explain what I said before, namely, that there is no particular place in England, where all the manufactures are made, but every county or place has its peculiar sort, or particular manufacture, in which the people are wholly employed; and for all the rest that is wanted, they fetch them from other parts.[41]

But, then, as what is thus wanted by every particular person, or family, is but in small quantities, and they would not be able to send for it to the country or town where it is to be bought, there are shopkeepers in every village, or at least in every considerable market-town, where the particulars are to be bought, and who find it worth their while to furnish themselves with quantities of all the particular goods, be they made where and as far off as they will; and at these shops the people who want them are easily supplied.

Nor do even these shopkeepers go or send to all the several counties where those goods are made—that is to say, to this part for the cloth, or to that for the lining; to another for the buttons, and to another for the thread; but they again correspond with the wholesale dealers in London, where there are particular shops or warehouses for all these; and they not only furnish the country shopkeepers, but give them large credit, and sell them great quantities of goods, by which they again are enabled to trust the tailors who make the clothes, or even their neighbours who wear them; and the manufacturers in the several counties do the like by those wholesale dealers who supply the country shops.

Through so many hands do all the necessary things pass for the clothing a poor plain countryman, though he lived as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed; and this occasions, as I have said, a general circulation of trade, both to and from London, from and to all the parts of England, so that every manufacture is sold and removed five or six times, and perhaps more, before it comes at the last consumer.

This method of trade brings another article in, which also is the great foundation of the increase of commerce, and the prodigious magnitude of our inland trade is much owing to it; and that is giving credit, by which every tradesman is enabled to trade for a great deal more than he otherwise could do. By this method a shopkeeper is able to stock his shop, or warehouses, with two or three times as much goods in value, as he has stock of his own to begin the world with, and by that means is able to trust out his goods to others, and give them time, and so under one another—nay, I may say, many a tradesman begins the world with borrowed stocks, or with no stock at all, but that of credit, and yet carries on a trade for several hundreds, nay, for several thousands, of pounds a-year.

By this means the trade in general is infinitely increased—nay, the stock of the kingdom in trade is doubled, or trebled, or more, and there is infinitely more business carried on, than the real stock could be able to manage, if no credit were to be given; for credit in this particular is a stock, and that not an imaginary, but a real stock; for the tradesman, that perhaps begins but with five hundred, or one thousand pounds' stock, shall be able to furnish or stock his shop with four times the sum in the value of goods; and as he gives credit again, and trusts other tradesmen under him, so he launches out into a trade of great magnitude; and yet, if he is a prudent manager of his business, he finds himself able to answer his payments, and so continually supply himself with goods, keeping up the reputation of his dealings, and the credit of his shop, though his stock be not a fifth, nay, sometimes not a tenth part, in proportion to the returns that he makes by the year: so that credit is the foundation on which the trade of England is made so considerable.

Nor is it enough to say, that people must and will have goods, and that the consumption is the same; it is evident that consumption is not the same; and in those nations where they give no credit, or not so much as here, the trade is small in proportion, as I shall show in its place.


[38] [The amount of trade produced by the British colonies is still great; but it has been ascertained that it is not profitable to the nation at large, as much more is paid from the public purse for the military protection required by the colonies, than returns to individuals through the medium of business.]

[39] [The cotton manufacture has now the prominence which, in Defoe's time, was due to those of wool and silk.]

[40] [It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that the canal navigation of England has come into existence since the date of this work—the railway communication is but of yesterday.]

[41] [Since Defoe's time, little alteration has taken place in the locality of a number of manufactures in England; but, in the interval, an entire change has been effected in Scotland, which now possesses various manufactures of importance in the commercial economy of the nation. We need only allude to the cambrics, gauzes, and silks of Paisley; the cottons and other goods of Glasgow; the plaidings of Stirlingshire; the stockings of Hawick; the printing-paper of Mid-Lothian; the carpets and bonnets of Kilmarnock; the iron of Muirkirk and Carron; the linens of Fife and Dundee; and the shawls of Edinburgh.]



Credit is, or ought to be, the tradesman's mistress; but I must tell him too, he must not think of ever casting her off, for if once he loses her, she hardly ever returns; and yet she has one quality, in which she differs from most of the ladies who go by that name—if you court her, she is gone; if you manage so wisely as to make her believe you really do not want her, she follows and courts you. But, by the way, no tradesman can be in so good circumstances as to say he does not want, that is, does not stand in need of credit.

Credit, next to real stock, is the foundation, the life and soul, of business in a private tradesman; it is his prosperity; it is his support in the substance of his whole trade; even in public matters, it is the strengh and fund of a nation. We felt, in the late wars, the consequence of both the extremes—namely, of wanting and of enjoying a complete fund of credit.

Credit makes war, and makes peace; raises armies, fits out navies, fights battles, besieges towns; and, in a word, it is more justly called the sinews of war than the money itself,[42] because it can do all these things without money—nay, it will bring in money to be subservient, though it be independent.

Credit makes the soldier fight without pay, the armies march without provisions, and it makes tradesmen keep open shop without stock. The force of credit is not to be described by words; it is an impregnable fortification, either for a nation, or for a single man in business; and he that has credit is invulnerable, whether he has money or no; nay, it will make money, and, which is yet more, it will make money without an intrinsic, without the materia medica (as the doctors have it); it adds a value, and supports whatever value it adds, to the meanest substance; it makes paper pass for money, and fills the Exchequer and the banks with as many millions as it pleases, upon demand. As I said in last chapter, it increases commerce; so, I may add, it makes trade, and makes the whole kingdom trade for many millions more than the national specie can amount to.

It may be true, as some allege, that we cannot drive a trade for more goods than we have to trade with, but then it is as true, that it is by the help of credit that we can increase the quantity, and that more goods are made to trade with than would otherwise be; more goods are brought to market than they could otherwise sell; and even in the last consumption, how many thousands of families wear out their clothes before they pay for them, and eat their dinner upon tick with the butcher! Nay, how many thousands who could not buy any clothes, if they were to pay for them in ready money, yet buy them at a venture upon their credit, and pay for them as they can!

Trade is anticipated by credit, and it grows by the anticipation; for men often buy clothes before they pay for them, because they want clothes before they can spare the money; and these are so many in number, that really they add a great stroke to the bulk of our inland trade. How many families have we in England that live upon credit, even to the tune of two or three years' rent of their revenue, before it comes in!—so that they must be said to eat the calf in the cow's belly. This encroachment they make upon the stock in trade; and even this very article may state the case: I doubt not but at this time the land owes to the trade some millions sterling; that is to say, the gentlemen owe to the tradesmen so much money, which, at long run, the rents of their lands must pay.

The tradesmen having, then, trusted the landed men with so much, where must they have it but by giving credit also to one another? Trusting their goods and money into trade, one launching out into the hands of another, and forbearing payment till the lands make it good out of their produce, that is to say, out of their rents.

The trade is not limited; the produce of lands may be and is restrained. Trade cannot exceed the bounds of the goods it can sell; but while trade can increase its stock of cash by credit, it can increase its stock of goods for sale, and then it has nothing to do but to find a market to sell at; and this we have done in all parts of the world, still by the force of our stocks being so increased.

Thus, credit raising stock at home, that stock enables us to give credit abroad; and thus the quantity of goods which we make, and which is infinitely increased at home, enables us to find or force a vent abroad. This is apparent, our home trade having so far increased our manufacture, that England may be said to be able almost to clothe the whole world; and in our carrying on the foreign trade wholly upon the English stocks, giving credit to almost all the nations of the world; for it is evident, our stocks lie at this time upon credit in the warehouses of the merchants in Spain and Portugal, Holland and Germany, Italy and Turkey; nay, in New Spain and Brazil.

The exceeding quantity of goods thus raised in England cannot be supposed to be the mere product of the solid wealth and stocks of the English people; we do not pretend to it; the joining those stocks to the value of goods, always appearing in England in the hands of the manufacturers, tradesmen, and merchants, and to the wealth which appears in shipping, in stock upon land, and in the current coin of the nation, would amount to such a prodigy of stock, as not all Europe could pretend to.

But all this is owing to the prodigious thing called credit, the extent of which in the British trade is as hard to be valued, as the benefit of it to England is really not to be described. It must be likewise said, to the honour of our English tradesman, that they understand how to manage the credit they both give and take, better than any other tradesmen in the world; indeed, they have a greater opportunity to improve it, and make use of it, and therefore may be supposed to be more ready in making the best of their credit, than any other nations are.

Hence it is that we frequently find tradesmen carrying on a prodigious trade with but a middling stock of their own, the rest being all managed by the force of their credit; for example, I have known a man in a private warehouse in London trade for forty thousand pounds a-year sterling, and carry on such a return for many years together, and not have one thousand pounds' stock of his own, or not more—all the rest has been carried on upon credit, being the stocks of other men running continually through his hands; and this is not practised now and then, as a great rarity, but is very frequent in trade, and may be seen every day, as what in its degree runs through the whole body of the tradesmen in England.[43]

Every tradesman both gives and takes credit, and the new mode of setting it up over their shop and warehouse doors, in capital letters, No trust by retail, is a presumption in trade; and though it may have been attempted in some trades, was never yet brought to any perfection; and most of those trades, who were the forwardest to set it up, have been obliged to take it down again, or act contrary to it in their business, or see some very good customers go away from them to other shops, who, though they have not brought money with them, have yet good foundations to make any tradesmen trust them, and who do at proper times make payments punctual enough.

On the contrary, instead of giving no trust by retail, we see very considerable families who buy nothing but on trust; even bread, beer, butter, cheese, beef, and mutton, wine, groceries, &c, being the things which even with the meanest families are generally sold for ready money. Thus I have known a family, whose revenue has been some thousands a-year, pay their butcher, and baker, and grocer, and cheesemonger, by a hundred pounds at a time, and be generally a hundred more in each of their debts, and yet the tradesmen have thought it well worth while to trust them, and their pay has in the end been very honest and good.

This is what I say brings land so much in debt to trade, and obliges the tradesman to take credit of one another; and yet they do not lose by it neither, for the tradesmen find it in the price, and they take care to make such families pay warmly for the credit, in the rate of their goods; nor can it be expected it should be otherwise, for unless the profit answered it, the tradesman could not afford to be so long without his money.

This credit takes its beginning in our manufactures, even at the very first of the operation, for the master manufacturer himself begins it. Take a country clothier, or bay-maker, or what other maker of goods you please, provided he be one that puts out the goods to the making; it is true that the poor spinners and weavers cannot trust; the first spin for their bread, and the last not only weave for their bread, but they have several workmen and boys under them, who are very poor, and if they should want their pay on Saturday night, must want their dinner on Sunday; and perhaps would be in danger of starving with their families, by the next Saturday.

But though the clothier cannot have credit for spinning and weaving, he buys his wool at the stapler's or fellmonger's, and he gets two or three months' credit for that; he buys his oil and soap of the country shopkeeper, or has it sent down from his factor at London, and he gets longer credit for that, and the like of all other things; so that a clothier of any considerable business, when he comes to die, shall appear to be L4000 or L5000 in debt.

But, then, look into his books, and you shall find his factor at Blackwell Hall, who sells his cloths, or the warehouse-keeper who sells his duroys and druggets, or both together, have L2000 worth of goods in hand left unsold, and has trusted out to drapers, and mercers, and merchants, to the value of L4000 more; and look into his workhouse at home, namely, his wool-lofts, his combing-shop, his yarn-chamber, and the like, and there you will find it—in wool unspun, and in yarn spun, and in wool at the spinners', and in yarn at and in the looms at the weavers'; in rape-oil, gallipoli oil, and perhaps soap, &c, in his warehouses, and in cloths at the fulling-mill, and in his rowing-shops, finished and unfinished, L4000 worth of goods more; so that, though this clothier owed L5000 at his death, he has nevertheless died in good circumstances, and has L5000 estate clear to go among his children, all his debts paid and discharged. However, it is evident, that at the very beginning of this manufacturer's trade, his L5000 stock is made L10,000, by the help of his credit, and he trades for three times as much in the year; so that L5000 stock makes L10,000 stock and credit, and that together makes L30,000 a-year returned in trade.

When you come from him to the warehouse-keeper in London, there you double and treble upon it, to an unknown degree; for the London wholesale man shall at his death appear to have credit among the country clothiers for L10,000 or L15,000, nay, to L20,000, and yet have kept up an unspotted credit all his days.

When he is dead, and his executors or widow come to look into things, they are frightened with the very appearance of such a weight of debts, and begin to doubt how his estate will come out at the end of it. But when they come to cast up his books and his warehouse, they find,

In debts abroad, perhaps L30,000 In goods in his warehouse L12,000

So that, in a word, the man has died immensely rich; that is to say, worth between L20,000 and L30,000, only that, having been a long standard in trade, and having a large stock, he drove a very great business, perhaps to the tune of L60,000 or L70,000 a-year; so that, of all the L30,000 owing, there may be very little of it delivered above four to six months, and the debtors being many of them considerable merchants, and good paymasters, there is no difficulty in getting in money enough to clear all his own debts; and the widow and children being left well, are not in such haste for the rest but that it comes in time enough to make them easy; and at length it all comes in, or with but a little loss.

As it is thus in great things, it is the same in proportion with small; so that in all the trade of England, you may reckon two-thirds of it carried on upon credit; in which reckoning I suppose I speak much within compass, for in some trades there is four parts of five carried on so, and in some more.

All these things serve to show the infinite value of which credit is to the tradesman, as well as to trade itself; and it is for this reason I have closed my instructions with this part of the discourse. Credit is the choicest jewel the tradesman is trusted with; it is better than money many ways; if a man has L10,000 in money, he may certainly trade for L10,000, and if he has no credit, he cannot trade for a shilling more.

But how often have we seen men, by the mere strength of their credit, trade for ten thousand pounds a-year, and have not one groat of real stock of their own left in the world! Nay, I can say it of my own knowledge, that I have known a tradesman trade for ten thousand pounds a-year, and carry it on with full credit to the last gasp, then die, and break both at once; that is to say, die unsuspected, and yet, when his estate has been cast up, appear to be five thousand pounds worse than nothing in the world: how he kept up his credit, and made good his payments so long, is indeed the mystery, and makes good what I said before, namely, that as none trade so much upon credit in the world, so none know so well how to improve and manage credit to their real advantage, as the English tradesmen do; and we have many examples of it, among our bankers especially, of which I have not room to enter at this time into the discourse, though it would afford a great many diverting particulars.[44]

I have mentioned on several occasions in this work, how nice and how dainty a dame this credit is, how soon she is affronted and disobliged, and how hard to be recovered, when once distasted and fled; particularly in the story of the tradesman who told his friends in a public coffee-house that he was broke, and should shut up his shop the next day. I have hinted how chary we ought to be of one another's credit, and that we should take care as much of our neighbour tradesman's credit as we would of his life, or as we would of firing his house, and, consequently, the whole street.

Let me close all with a word to the tradesman himself, that if it be so valuable to him, and his friends should be all so chary of injuring his reputation, certainly he should be very chary of it himself. The tradesman that is not as tender of his credit as he is of his eyes, or of his wife and children, neither deserves credit, nor will long be master of it.

As credit is a coy mistress, and will not easily be courted, so she is a mighty nice touchy lady, and is soon affronted; if she is ill used, she flies at once, and it is a very doubtful thing whether ever you gain her favour again.

Some may ask me here, 'How comes it to pass, since she is so nice and touchy a lady, that so many clowns court and carry her, and so many fools keep her so long?' My answer is, that those clowns have yet good breeding enough to treat her civilly; he must be a fool indeed that will give way to have his credit injured, and sit still and be quiet-that will not bustle and use his utmost industry to vindicate his own reputation, and preserve his credit.

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