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because the years are gone in which we enjoyed
them; and that we imagine there are no more
old ladies, because those we loved are dead.


A LARGE part of the administration of the
domestic affairs of this country, which does
not come under the cognizance of the Home
Office* and the Treasury, is confided to a
government department called the Board of
Trade. Its formal title is, the Committee of
the Privy Council appointed for the
Consideration of all matters relating to Trade
and Foreign Plantations.

*See Volume X., page 270.

Though the Board of Trade is now, as it
ought to be in the greatest trading country in
the world, a useful institution, its earlier
history is not respectable. Its origin was,
however, good; for it began with Cromwell, who
appointed his son Richard, and many lords of his
council, to meet and consider by what means
trade and navigation might be regulated and
promoted. Before Cromwell's time English
sovereigns had, for a century, been accustomed,
now and then, to direct their privy councils
to discuss particular questions of trade; but it
was Cromwell who established first a trade
department of the state, and the labours of
the committee so established helped to
produce the navigation laws of the
Protectorate. Cromwell's committee, however,
was the thing without a name; a Board of
Trade, distinctly so-called, did not come into
existence till the restoration, when it was
established at the instigation of Lord
Shaftesbury; a nobleman who, though by no
means upon all points sincere, took, there
is every reason to believe, a real interest in
the developement of Commerce. This is the
Board denounced by Burke as "one amongst
those showy and specious impositions, which
one of the experiment-making administrations
of Charles the Second, held out to delude the
people and to be substituted in the place of
the real service which they might expect from
a parliament annually sitting." The continuance
of the Board, good or bad, at any rate,
was brief. Projected in sixteen hundred and
sixty-eight, it perished in sixeen hundred and
seventy-three; the expense of it being found
inconvenient to his sacred but straightened

During the war with France which
followed the Revolution of sixteen hundred
and eighty-eight, our trade suffered greatly
from French cruisers and privateers. Occasion
was thereupon taken by a faction hostile
to King William the Third to propose the
establishment of a Board for the Protection of
Trade in parliament itself, so constituted as of
necessity to draw into itself the chief
functions of both the Treasury and the Admiralty,
and thus deprive the king of a large part of
his prerogative. The government with
difficulty defeated this design, by opposing to it
that revival of the Board of Trade and
Plantations, which took place in the year sixteen
hundred and ninety-six. "Thus," according
to Burke's comment, "the Board of Trade
was reproduced in a job, and perhaps," he
adds, speaking bitterly, in the year seventeen
hundred and eighty, "it is the only instance
of a public body which has never degenerated;
but, to this hour, preserves all the health and
vigour of its primitive institution."

The Board, as constituted in the year
sixteen hundred and ninety-six, consisted, in
addition to the great officers of state, of a
first lord and seven commissioners, each paid
with a thousand pounds a year. Their duty
was to promote the trade of the kingdom,
and to inspect and improve the
plantations. The appointment of so many
well-paid officials, in times of political corruption,
led to much dishonest dealing, and the
work of the Board, so far as it affected
colonies, was purely mischievous. The only
colonies established by it, Georgia and Nova-
Scotia, cost vast sums to the nation, and never
prospered until freed from the intermeddling
of their founders. Correspondence between
the crown and the colonies was indeed
carried on, nominally, through a secretary of
state; but the secretary acted upon the reports
and opinions of the Board of Trade in all
matters relating to colonial government and

The mischief-making of the Board of
Trade came to its climax in the reign of
George the Third, after that king had
resolved to break the power of the great Whig
families of the revolution, to whom he, as one
of the house of Hanover, was indebted for
the English crown. George the Third desiring
to increase his personal authority over the
government, he and the ministers who stooped
to his desires, endeavoured to win the support
of the landed interest to his new system, by
transferring to the colonies the weight of
many burthens pressing heavily on
landowners in England. During the early part,
therefore, of this king's reign, the Board of
Trade was constantly employed in devising
those experiments for taxing the American
colonies, which led to their noble war of
Independence and cut off the United States
from the British empire. While the Board
of Trade was occupied in this way it was
doing little enough, and nothing useful, to
advance the commerce of the realm.

Although a secretary of state for the
colonies had been appointed in the year
seventeen hundred and sixty-eight, the
powers of the Board of Trade remained
unaltered until the year seventeen hundred and
eighty-two, when the righteous successes
of the American colonists rendered
economies in England unavoidable. The
Board, as it then stood, was accordingly
abolished, and the business of the
department was made over to a permanent
committee of the privy council, constituted as it