William Walwyn, Walwyns Conceptions; for a Free Trade (May 1652).

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Bibliographical Information

ID Number

T.233 [1652.05] William Walwyn, Walwyns Conceptions; for a Free Trade (May 1652).

Full title

William Walwyn, W Walwyns Conceptions; for a Free Trade. To the Hon. Committee for Forraine Affaires Sitting at Whitehall.

Estimated date of publication

May 1652.

Thomason Tracts Catalog information

(not listed).

Editor’s Introduction

(Placeholder: Text will be added later.) Presented to the Committee of the Council of State for Trade and Foreign Affairs, May 1652. (McMichael, p, 446).

Text of Pamphlet


To the Honble Committe for Forraine Affaires Sitting at Whitehall

The humble conceptions of Wm Walwin referring to this Quere vizt whether the restriction and Government of Forraine Trade by Companyes: Or leaving the same equally free to all Englishmen would bee most profitable for the Comon wealth

Humbly sheweth

That seing those who desire a continuance of forraine trade under Companies, and those that propose an absolute freedome therein, doe both hold forth the publike good, as that which ought to be submitted unto: The first thing necessary towards a resolution, seemeth to be a discovery of the true way of discerning what is to be deemed a publique good in England:

And that (if the voyce of experience have any Credit) is to find out what is Common Right in England; Those things which are of Common concernment alwaies adiuged and claimed as native right both before and after alterations (such are common Rights) having ever proved to include what hath been most proper and commodious for the Common-wealth and best for every particular person whose Interest hath not been opposite to that of the publique:

The which Rule of Discovery proving sound and good in this quere of Forraine Trade, the ancient and continuall Claime of Right unto a generall freedome of Trade by Parliaments and the most industrious people at all times, both before and since the alterations and obstructions made therein by prerogative, would necessarily conclude that for forraine Trade to be universally free to all English men alike, would be most advantagious to the Common wealth; Scarce any the most noted and knowne Right of the Nation (if Parliaments themselves) having been more constantly claimed as Right.

And though this way of discovery of what is to be deemed a publike good and best for the Commonwealth of England may at first appeare not so pertinent to the solution of the question before you; yet be pleased to favor it so fair, as to admitt a serious consideration whether in this and all other queries touching publique good, it be not the safest and speediest way affording and contenting it selfe with a moderate generall experienced good, such as at best men or Nations are capable of, avoyding that uncertainty innovation and a possibility of ever changing for the worse, which either vaine hopes of perfection or pretences of greater good to the publique (the originall of most if not all Companyes) might strongly but pemitiously perswade unto.

For if it be thoroughly considered, it will (as is humbly conceived) apeare that the waveing of this Rule of Discovery of what is most good, by what is most antient certaine and continuall claimed Right, (Except in cases of iminent & extreme danger) for any other way of Discovery, hath generally (if not ever) proved of sad consequence to the Comon wealth and hath been so apprehended in most of former ages; Motions or pleas against comon & knowne Right, though upon never so specious pretences, being hardly admitted, ever suspected, and sometimes deepely censured.

And seemeth to have been soe upon good and sollid grounds; for waive but this Rule, and admit but pleas and motions against knowne Right, upon pretences of better and more profittable things, and an entrance is thereby given and roome made for Art, Sophistry, and corrupt policy to practise upon and against any or all the ancient liberties of the Nation, to baffle Reason, hold Argument for ever, untill at length it hath prevailed (as in times foregoing this Parliamt:) but never without glorious colour and glosses of publique good, to a Totall subvertion of Publique Right and an inundation of oppressions & grevances; amongst which the restriction of Forraine Trade by Companyes (in the beginning of this Parliament) was not esteemed the least.

So as the premises seriously considered, with what farther may arise in your grate wisdomes, possibly this breife way of discovering will conduce most to the good of the Common wealth in this case may appeare most proper and effectuall, and of it selfe so sufficient to prove this so antient a continuall claymed Right, as freedome to all English men in all Forraine Trade is knowne to be, as needs no other argument to prove it more profitable for the Commonwealth, then any way of a restriction on Companies whatsoever.

But least this way of proving should seeme too strictly & precisely fixt upon the poynt of Right (which yet is humbly conceived to be the best) to make it manifest that (as all other the knowne Rights of England) so this of freedome of Trade doth comprize that wealth & essentiall publique good which in reason can justly be expected, and far beyond what possibly can be attained by restriction or the Government of Companies:

It is farther humblie offered That if the good of the Commonwealth accruing by forraine Trade consisteth as surely it doth,

  • 1.  In the improvement of Land by the buying & transporting of Native Comodities
  • 2.  In occasioning profitable Labour for all industrious people, in buying and transporting all sort of Manufactures, and bringing of all sorts of unwrought samples & materialls of Gold & Silver:
  • 3.  In keeping other Nations from making the like unto our home Manufacture
  • 4.  In the increase of Shipping:
  • 5.  In the increase of Marriners:
  • 6.  In being more secure from advantages of Forraine States:
  • 7.  In the increase of Wealth and plenty:

All these are (as is humbly conceived) manifestly to be proved be effected most certainly & substantially, by admitting an universall freedome in all forraine trades; and that by this undeniable production thereof. The increase of Merchants.

1. For as to Merchants increasing (as increase they must in few yeares) they will not continue plodding to one or two townes in a Nation or Province, Trading in a stately manner upon set Dayes, with Grossiers, in great quantityes, making up their gaines in the grosse; but will be dispersed in every Haven and Towne, furnishing (not Grossiers that gain great estates out of our Native Comodities, and soe render them deare to the last user) but the last sellers, and so will be able to give at home the better Rates, which in conclusion redounds to workemen of all sorts, to Farmers, Owners & Land.

2. The numerousness of Merchants will occasion a strife & emulation among them, who shall produce the best ordered goods; and so will be more exquisite in the workmanship of dyings and dressings & the like, and give greater prices for worke; whereas Merchants in Companyes have noe need of such diligence, none being at the places of their sale, but themselves, or very few others: what they have must be taken, there being no other to be sold and workmen must worke at what Rates they please, worke being generally scarce through the scarcity of Merchants: and by setting their owne time of shippings, they make their own Markets for any their Commodities which impoverisheth the maker, worker, grower, growth & Land. The more buyers, the more is bought & sould, all comers of the world would be found out; noe good towne in any province, but where English Merchants would be resident; whence they would returne the Comodities of their respective places from the first hand, and so upon cheaper Rates then to be brought from all parts to one or two Townes in a Nation through divers getting hands, and at great charges; and if any Money of Gold Silver or Bullion be in any place, it could not but find the way to England.

3. They being numerous, and so dispersed into every town & with their fresh goods upon a neat Charge, exempt from Companyes impositions, could be able to sell upon reasonable Termes, & to supply all occasions, as would necessarily beat downe the making of any goods like unto Our Native Manufactures, and by their residence in all Creekes & haven Townes, their own Interest would bind them to watch against the bringing into any forraine parts either Wools or Fullers Earth, more carefully and certainely than any Officers can doe; the want whereof, and the Residence of Merchants in one or two set places, giving advantage & opportunity thereunto; they growing Rich notwithstanding; which hath been of infinite prejudice to this Nation.

4. The numerousness of Merchants would necessarily increase the number of Shipping; as may be seen amongst our diligent neighbours, and good & large & usefull Ships too; although hardly any Merchants ships are soe serviceable or to be trusted to, for Warr or for defence and protection, as those that are built purposely for these uses by the State.

5. Mariners would be exceedingly increased (a thing of very great moment) inriched and incouraged thereby; being free to make the best use of their longe, dangerous voyages to the East & West Indies, to Turky, Spaine, France, & all places; & to Trade and buy & sell with their small stocks, & to make their returne in jewells or any Commodities without that feare & danger incurred from Companyes: every ten shillings, as in some Countries, would be improveable; even servants would adventure their wages with them, and they would in shorter time become able & profitable members of the Commonwealth.

6. The numerousness of Merchants would occasion that as to long voyages and far distant places (as to East & West Indies & the like) many would joyne together for one place, & others for another, in waies forseen to be as secure as Companyes, whether to sea or Land dangers: but being in small inconsiderable bodies. States would have noe such temptations to worke upon them, they being of noe considerable capacity to afford them much at any time, unto which Companyes have been ever liable.

7. And although possibly for some few yeares this inlarging Trade might not produce so many wealthy men, as have been in the same time by Companies, most of them being borne Rich & adding wealth to wealth by trading in a beaten Rode to wealth, wherein noe other had liberty to set his foote, yet it will produce Thousands me of able men to beare publique Charges or what other Publique occasions they may be called unto.

All which, & probably much more may (as is humbly conceived) justly said in behalfe of an absolute & universall freedome in forraine Trade. And where it is said on the other side, that Company merit much for finding out of Trades; it is very doubtfull who were the first finders, commonly the first are after a time forgotten, and Companyes grow up after the Trade hath been Ripened and is worth the gathering; then upon Pretence of Reformation (the true ground being to hinder the increase of Traders that for their particular gaine might not be abated) they combine togeather into Companyes; this usually hath been their Originall; however the Law gives noe priviledge to inventions that are once discovered, and only fourteen yeares particular use for incouragement beyond discovery; soe as that in this Case is noe plea.

And for their being at great charges; it being upon a Purchase from prerogative, and against common Right and Common good, the former rule being good is soe farr from deserving Encouragernent that it should not be so much as mentioned; & for having the benefit of mutuall Councells one with another, it is knowne that there is not that Union that is pretended, but that strife & contentions & circumventions doe abound amongst them, the greater lying more heavy upon the more moderate Traders, and the less heavyiy complayning of their manifold burthens, by their many unreasonable Orders, Oathes, fines, Censures: soe that however through Custome & Tradition they are wedded ever superstitiously to continue in this way of a perplexed Society, pleasing themselves in spending very much their time in Courts & meetings about others affaires, doubtless their Lives would be much more Comfortable, and their Trades as gainefull upon the score of Generall & equall freedome, had they hearts & Courages to prove it; Especially considering that their Consciences would not be burthened with taking away others Rights for their owne advantage, nor ly under so much hatred for the same as now for many yeares they have done; very many beleiving they have been much injured by them, and some undone.

But all being said that can be, there will not faile multiplicity of words to the contrary, and although the Right & the publique good both are conceived to be undeniably with generall Freedome of Trade; yet the Companyes have at present the advantage of possession, which (all things considered) is very hard on the other side; especially in that the one hath its foundation in Common Right, the other in prerogative, the Common Enemy; so as possibly it were but equall (prerogative being a kind of Forcecible entry) first to put the people into possession of this their Native Right; and then let Companyes or those who have a minde to be such, offer their merits & reasons for their Incorporations, as they shall see cause, if they can justly doe it.

And truly it can hardly be discerned how this Controversy can ever come to a right & good end, so as the Parliamt shall receive full satisfaction therein, except either they be pleased to proceed to judgmt upon the ground of knowne Right, & thereupon resolve that Right shall take place as not counting but the yssue must be good: Or else that they will be pleased for Rights sake, to make an experiment of a free Trade for halfe the number of yeares that hath been made proofe of by Companyes; affording only attention thereunto, which is the only thing requisite from Authority. In which time, God preserving the Nation from the banefull interposition of prerogative & its money taking faculty, possibly so great an increase of wealth & strength & prosperity would be seen in short space of time, compared to the long continuance of the contrary Course, as would give a finall & happy solution to this Quere to the contentfull satisfaction even of those that have most contended for the continuance of Companies, & have most opposed Trades freedome; & to the universall good of all well minded people: which is the harty desire of the Author of these weake conceptions, & which with what also is in him, he humbly tenders to the service of your Honours, beseeching your favourable construction of all & every part

As (in duty bound) &c.