Letters concerning the English Nation

By Voltaire; Nicholas Cronk | Go to book overview

LETTER X. On Trade.

AS Trade enrich'd 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 rais'd 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 possibly be surpriz'd 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 distanc'd Parts of the Globe. One before Gibraltar, conquer'd and still possess'd by the English; a second to Porto Bello, to dispossess the King of Spain of the Treasures of the West-Indies; and a third into the Baltick, to prevent the Northern Powers from coming to an Engagement.

At the Time when Lewis XIV made all Italy tremble, and that his Armies, Which had already possess'd themselves of Savoy and Piedmont, were upon the Point of taking Turin; Prince Eugene was oblig'd 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 address'd 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 disburs'd him the abovemention'd Sums: 'Gentlemen, I have receiv'd your Money, and flatter my self 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*

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