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Celebrate Commerce

Roderick Long over at Liberty & Power posts this wonderful quotation from Joseph Addison (1672-1719).  I recommend reading the entire post, but here are some choice selections from Addison’s celebration of commerce:

There is no place in the town which I so much love to frequent as the
Royal Exchange. It gives me a secret satisfaction, and in some measure,
gratifies my vanity, as I am an Englishman, to see so rich an assembly
of countrymen and foreigners consulting together upon the private
business of mankind, and making this metropolis a kind of emporium for
the whole earth. I must confess I look upon High-Change to be a great
council, in which all considerable nations have their representatives.
Factors in the trading world are what ambassadors are in the politic
world; they negotiate affairs, conclude treaties, and maintain a good
correspondence between those wealthy societies of men that are divided
from one another by seas and oceans, or live on the different
extremities of a continent. I have often been pleased to hear disputes
adjusted between an inhabitant of Japan and an alderman of London, or
to see a subject of the Great Mogul entering into a league with one of
the Czar of Muscovy. I am infinitely delighted in mixing with these
several Ministers of Commerce, as they are distinguished by their
different walks and different languages: sometimes I am jostled among a
body of Armenians; sometimes I am lost in a crowd of Jews; and
sometimes make one in a group of Dutchmen. I am a Dane, Swede, or
Frenchman at different times; or rather fancy my self like the old
philosopher, who upon being asked what countryman he was, replied that
he was a citizen of the world…..

For these reasons there are no more useful members in a commonwealth
than merchants. They knit mankind together in a mutual intercourse of
good offices, distribute the gifts of nature, find work for the poor,
add wealth to the rich, and magnificence to the great. Our English
merchant converts the tin of his own country into gold, and exchanges
his wool for rubies. The Mahometans are clothed in our British
manufacture, and the inhabitants of the Frozen Zone warmed with the
fleeces of our sheep.

When I have been upon the ’Change, I have often fancied one of
our old kings standing in person, where he is represented in effigy,
and looking down upon the wealthy concourse of people with which that
place is every day filled. In this case, how would he be surprised to
hear all the languages of Europe spoken in this little spot of his
former dominions, and to see so many private men, who in his time would
have been the vassals of some powerful baron, negotiating like princes
for greater sums of money than were formerly to be met with in the
Royal Treasury! Trade, without enlarging the British territories, has
given us a kind of additional Empire: it has multiplied the number of
the rich, made our landed estates infinitely more valuable than they
were formerly, and added to them an accession of other estates as
valuable as the lands themselves.


(HT to Bob Higgs)


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