Some Considerations upon the late ACT of the Parliament of SCOTLAND, for Constitu­ting an INDIAN COMPANY.
In a LETTER to a Friend.


YOUR last to me brought a Printed Act of the Parliament of Scotland, for Constituting an Indian Company in or for that Kingdom, toge­ther with your own Thoughts, and those of some others upon it. In the first place, you say, That this Act consists of such Extravagant and unusual Priviledges, as was never granted by any other Prince or State, and which are not only without a Precedent, but may hardly be imitated by any other Nation. And in the second place, That this Act will in a particular man­ner be prejudicial to the Trade of England, since these vast Priviledges will en­able the Scots to under-sell the English, and consequently draw the Foreign Trade from hence.

For Remedy of which, you hope and wish that the ensuing Parliament may grant such Priviledges, and Exemptions to our Companies of Trade in particular, and to the English Nation in general, as may be suitable and sufficiently equivalent to those granted in Scotland: And that you doubt not but they will likewise pro­hibit any of the Subjects of the Crown of England from being concerned, and use all other means to render this new Company ineffectual.

Though I have hitherto been, and am as far as others from wishing or seeking the Prosperity of any Country that may in the least interfere with that of my own, yet cannot I forbear being of Opinion, that if the Government and Peo­ple of Scotland, or any other Nation in their condition, will in good Earnest En­courage Foreign Trade, they ought to grant such Piviledges as are contained in this Act, with some other very material Additions, which I find there omitted; however in the main the Scots are in the right, if by granting a few Prviledges, which cost them nothing, they can introduce a brave and vigorous Constitution of Foreign Trade into their Country; and it is well for them, if the short space of One and Twenty Years, wherein the chief of their Priviledges consists, prove sufficient to entice and allure any considerable part of the Rich, Warm, and Fertil Indies, to the Poor, Cold, and Barren Scotland. Such as these and other large Priviledges were granted by the Mighty French King above Thirty Years ago, to a Company by him constituted with a larger Capital than any other in the Tra­ding World before it. To this Company he became obliged to furnish Men of War and Convoys, not only in the places of Europe, but even to and from the Indies; and which is more, he deposited a Fund of several Millions of Livres to bear the Company's Losses for the first Ten Years. Suitable to this, the King of Denmark and the Elector of Brandenburgh have granted Protections, Priviledges, and [Page 2]Immunities to an Indian Trade, vastly beyond what Scotland is, or perhaps can be capable of: Yet were they so far from having the wished for Success, that we see them under a sensible Decline before they are come to any tolerable Growth or Maturity. So that upon the whole, I see no great cause of Umbrage to us from those remote, cold, and doubtful Designs of the Scots, of which even the Success can come to but little in the present Age. In the mean time we may elsewhere find sufficient scope for all our Jealousie, Anger, and Heat; for the Dutch do not only propose, but actually possess most of all the Foreign Trade of Christendom, which they have gained upon us and other Nations, by pre­serving their Trade and Navigation free from Restraints and Impositions. The Powers and Priviledges granted to their East-India Company, hath brought them to a pitch of Greatness beyond whatever was of that kind in the World, who though they are but Subjects in Holland, yet are they one of the greatest Soveraigns upon Earth in India. Thus if we look abroad, Experience will teach us, those Priviledges are neither without a Precedent, nor inconsistent with Royal Majesty, but are only such as we and they, or any other People ought to grant, if we will in earnest encourage Foreign Trade.

The Practice of France, Denmark, and other Princes and People, is suffici­ently convincing that a Company of Trade can never subsist by a little, un­steady, precarious sort of Interloping; the Spirit of Piracy begins to haunt and infest the Trade of the Eastern World, and the Governments there will daily find more cause to suspect such for Pirates and Robbers, who have not Residence and Place, or places of Abode in India, whither they can have recourse for re­paration in case of wrong. England, France, Holland, and the other Countries of Europe being too Remote and uncertain for them, the truth of which the two very last Interlopers experienced, who were both Arrested in India, and had been made Prize by the Natives, if the Company had not interposed.

And in Africa and America it is still worse, for the Natives there are altoge­ther Barbarous; so that nothing but good Forts, convenient Situations, strong Footing, and Numerous Inhabitants can support and maintain Trade there: And were there no Opposition, it will of course be the work of an Age before any such Settlement can be made. But what Opposition may this Company not ex­pect, since all the most considerable Nations of Europe have strong and sure Footing in the Indies, and drive their respective Trades exclusive of all others, all those will look upon this new Comer with a Jealous Eye, and do their ut­most to nip all their Designs in the bud; France, Denmark, Brandenburgh, and others, have experienced this, and so may the Scots Company time enough to their Cost; but all these Difficulties are still the greater, since this Company will be considered as belonging to a Country, which, although it be a Soveraign State, yet hath neither Force nor Means to exercise Regular Acts of Soveraignty abroad; and the Naval and other Forces of England will hardly think themselves concerned to promote and assist this Company, but rather the contrary.

But although there seems to me no great danger from this Cause, whatever there be from others, of which we seem less sensible, yet I shall come to your Remedies, which are two-fold: First, you would have our Commercial Com­panies in particular, and the Trade of England in general, encouraged by Privi­ledges suitable to these contained in this Act of Parliament. And in the Second place, you would prohibit all English-men, or more properly speaking, all the Sub­jects of the Crown of England, from being concerned in this new Company. For the first part of your Advice, whether it be called a Remedy, an Expedient, or what else you please, I think it should have been long since done from other Motives than a Scotch Emulation; but better late than never, should this prove the happy means to induce the Government and People of England, to take [Page 3]off their unaccountable Impositions, Restraints, and Prohibitions upon Foreign Trade; should this move us to encourage instead of depressing our Seamen and Navigation, and to give Priviledges to our Companies of Trade, suitable to those of our Rival Neighbours, the Scots should contibute more to our Safety, than the Geese did to that of the Roman Capitol. If this should be done, we might reasonably and safely enough, and as a suitable return, afford them as great a share of Foreign Trade, and Improvements at home, as their Country is, or can be capable of, since we might thereby more than double that of our own.

But the last part of your Advice is of a quite contrary Nature, and would have a Train of as bad Consequences, as the other would have of good; for this Design is now weak and uncertain: But should the Government and People of England think it worth their Anger or Jealousie, this would at once give it a Reputation in the World, and should any thing relating thereto be restrained, or prohibited by the Government here, it would like a Fountain enclosed, break out with the greater Violence in other places; this would rouse up, and awaken the Jealousie of all the Rival Nations of Europe, and more Persons and Interests would become engaged in a few Days, than otherwise would have been in many Years. Princes and Nations, who aspire to Trade, would take the Wing; and private Persons would be induced to think there were a great deal more in it than really is, or can possibly be, the weak and declining Interests and Constitu­tions of Foreign Trade in Christendom would revive, and receive fresh Force and Vigour, which would probably occasion such a Combination, and Constitu­tion of Trade, as never was, nor perhaps could otherwise have been.

Thus the more than ordinary Fitness and Disposition of the Scots to the Fru­gal part of Trade, would be rendered so far from being useful in Attracting, Di­viding, and Weakening the Designs and Qualifications of the Northern Crowns, and other Nations of Europe, who aspire to Trade, as it otherwise might, that their Genius, with perhaps no small part of our own, by being restrained and prohibited here, would Naturally vend it self abroad, and so become Instrumen­tal to the Rise and Enriching of some of our Assuming Neighbours; as the like Spirit of Restraints and Violence in Spain and Portugal, though doubtless quite contrary to the Intention thereof, proved the most effectual means that perhaps could well have been invented, of the Prosperity, Wealth, and Greatness of England, Holland, and others, as well as of their own Ruine, for Trade, like Religion, loves not force. Commonly the more rigid and severe such kind of Restraints and Pro­hibitions are, the less they answer the proposed Ends; things under such Circum­stances usually prove like the forbidden Fruit, they are coveted the more; and like Books supprest, they vend the better. If the Spaniards had allowed some of their Trade to the Indies, to others, they might have had a share themselves; but having excluded Strangers under no less pains than Death and Confiscation, the Vigour, Spirit, and Substance of Trade is flown, and the Shadow and gilded Notion thereof only remains, which instead of being truly Profitable, is really Prejudi­cial to Spain. It would be good Diversion for the Dutch, who are our Rivals, and the French, who are our Enemies, to see us and the Scotch come to a Misun­derstanding about such a Chymera as this; for the Dutch to see the English and Scotch, like the Men of Gotham in the Story, at odds about the passage of Sheep over the Bridge before they have them, while our good Neighbhours the Hol­landers are actually driving them away. To be brief, our Dangers are not from Scotland, nor Scotchmen, but from other Persons and Places; nor is the Scotch Act of Parliament any Cause, but only an Effect of the bad Constitution, and present ill Condition of our Foreign Trade. [Page 4]But now I have told you what I think the Scots will hardly be able to do, unless they should be further animated and enabled by Opposition from us, I shall go on to give you my Sentiments of what they seem to Design, or what may be practicable for them: And to me this Constitution of the Scots seems rather intended for a Company to entice and draw Foreign Merchants and Trade into their Country, than for any such stupendious Designs, as are fancyed by some; and suitable to this you know the Parliament of Scotland have of late Years granted mighty Priviledges to all such Persons, by way of Company, or otherwise, as will in­troduce or Improve any profitable Art or Manufactory: And Foreign Trade be­ing the Life of all other Improvements, the present Circumstances of their Country being incapable of that to any great purpose, they have been induced to settle a Company of Commerce for Strangers as well as others; to which Company, for the greater Ornament and Reputation thereof, they have given the Glorious Name of the INDIES: And conformable to this, I have it from good Hands, that the Original of this Design was not from Scotland, nor from hence, but altogether from Foreign Parts; and 'tis most likely that the Designs of this Company may be for short runs, as to the Coasts of Africa, the Canaries, the Streights, and other places, rather than to the Indies; which if ever they adventure upon, it's probable they will make Treaties of Com­merce with Denmark, Brandenburgh, and other Princes and People, who already have Possessions there, rather than attempt or expect any of their own; or they may make some Agreement with the Spaniards for or towards supplying them with Negroes. These are some of the greatest Mysteries I can find this new Company is, or probably can be capable of: And this seems conformable enough to their Actions, they having agreed upon a Stock of 600000 l. and ordered but one Quarter-part thereof to be paid upon the Subscription, so that the remainder may either be called in, or remain a Foundation to the Com­pany, as need shall require: So that upon the whole this seems rather to be de­signed for a General Foundation for Foreign Commerce, or a sort of Permission Company, than any thing else. And in my Judgment we ought neither in Ju­stice nor Humanity to wish them otherwise than good Success therein; but as to what you say, of how much an Union of these Kingdoms, both in Trade and Empire, would redound to their mutual Security, Force, Riches, and Glory, becomes not me, but the Politicians, and the respective Persons more immediately concerned, to discuss.

To conclude, I wish I could truly say, that the Minds and Humours of my Country-men were not variable and mutable like the Air they live in, and that they were not sometimes like Giddy People, fancying every thing about them to be in Motion, when all the stir is only in and from their own Imagi­nations. Some Years ago People were in warm pursuit after Plate-wrecks, and when that failed, the same Humour had recourse to Stock-Jobbing, and not­withstanding the vast Losses and Disappointments therein, no less than the whole Nation and the Legislative Power thereof, immediately fell headlong from thence into Lotteries, and from that Extremity we fell to another Excess, of Banking; and now all these proving either Abortive, or being at stand, the Humour in­clines to Interloping; and of this also, at the Cost of some body or other, we are now in a fair way to be convinced.

I am, &c.

LONDON: Printed in the YEAR 1695.

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