The English Patents of Monopoly

The English Patents of Monopoly

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The English Patents of Monopoly

The English Patents of Monopoly

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Excerpt

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, England experienced a series of attempts to establish monopolies by royal letters-patent, both for external and internal undertakings. The external or commercial monopolies were conceded to groups of merchants who exported to foreign countries the staples and manufactures of England. These great commercial companies, notably the Merchant Adventurers and the East India Company, embodying conspicuously as they did so much of national ambition and energy, have naturally attracted the attention of investigators, while the internal monopolies, less prominent but no less interesting, have been hitherto comparatively neglected. The avowed motive of both the foreign and domestic monopolies was that of organizing trade and industry under a national regulation which should protect and stimulate these enterprises. The system of internal monopoly, however, included a greater variety of objects and a greater complication of motives than did the group of external monopolies. It included, for example, a control of the press and of postal communication, primarily for political purposes; it comprised also licenses for contraventions of penal statutes, inspired by fiscal motives as well as the necessity of relief from cramping regulation. More important, from an economic point of view, than either of these were the undertakings in which it was hoped that the establishment of monopoly, under royal sanction, might be the means of encouraging new or weak domestic industries. The value of a systematic investigation of the latter, and the justification of this monograph, lies not only in the light derived from one experiment with industrial privileges, but in the special significance of this phase of English economic history. With some allowance for overlapping, it maybe said that in England "monopoly" formed the connecting link between "mercantilism" and "protection." The system of exclusive privilege supplemented, if it did not entirely supplant, the earlier policy which prohibited the export of specie and of raw materials and enacted statutes of . . .

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