Letters on England HTML version

10. On Trade
As trade enriched the citizens in England, so it contributed to their freedom, and
this freedom on the other side extended their commerce, whence arose the
grandeur of the State. Trade raised by insensible degrees the naval power, which
gives the English a superiority over the seas, and they now are masters of very
near two hundred ships of war. Posterity will very probably be surprised to hear
that an island whose only produce is a little lead, tin, fuller's-earth, and coarse
wool, should become so powerful by its commerce, as to be able to send, in
1723, three fleets at the same time to three different and far distanced parts of
the globe. One before Gibraltar, conquered and still possessed by the English; a
second to Portobello, to dispossess the King of Spain of the treasures of the
West Indies; and a third into the Baltic, to prevent the Northern Powers from
coming to an engagement.
At the time when Louis XIV. made all Italy tremble, and that his armies, which
had already possessed themselves of Savoy and Piedmont, were upon the point
of taking Turin; Prince Eugene was obliged to march from the middle of Germany
in order to succour Savoy. Having no money, without which cities cannot be
either taken or defended, he addressed himself to some English merchants.
These, at an hour and half's warning, lent him five millions, whereby he was
enabled to deliver Turin, and to beat the French; after which he wrote the
following short letter to the persons who had disbursed him the above-mentioned
sums: "Gentlemen, I have received your money, and flatter myself that I have laid
it out to your satisfaction." Such a circumstance as this raises a just pride in an
English merchant, and makes him presume (not without some reason) to
compare himself to a Roman citizen; and, indeed, a peer's brother does not think
traffic beneath him. When the Lord Townshend was Minister of State, a brother
of his was content to be a City merchant; and at the time that the Earl of Oxford
governed Great Britain, a younger brother was no more than a factor in Aleppo,
where he chose to live, and where he died. This custom, which begins, however,
to be laid aside, appears monstrous to Germans, vainly puffed up with their
extraction. These think it morally impossible that the son of an English peer
should be no more than a rich and powerful citizen, for all are princes in
Germany. There have been thirty highnesses of the same name, all whose
patrimony consisted only in their escutcheons and their pride.
In France the title of marquis is given gratis to any one who will accept of it; and
whosoever arrives at Paris from the midst of the most remote provinces with
money in his purse, and a name terminating in ac or ille, may strut about, and
cry, "Such a man as I! A man of my rank and figure!" and may look down upon a
trader with sovereign contempt; whilst the trader on the other side, by thus often
hearing his profession treated so disdainfully, is fool enough to blush at it.
However, I need not say which is most useful to a nation; a lord, powdered in the
tip of the mode, who knows exactly at what o'clock the king rises and goes to