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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XIV. John Locke

§ 9. Economic Writings

Locke’s writings on economic subjects do not rank in importance with his treatises on government. They deal with particular questions raised by the necessities of the political situation. No attempt had yet been made to isolate the fact of wealth and make it the subject of a special science. The direction of industry and commerce was held to be part of the statesman’s duty; but, in the seventeenth century, it began to be carried out with less thoroughness than before; and at the same time new problems were opened up by the growth of the national life. The American colonies, the enterprise of the East India company, the planting of Ireland, the commercial rivalry with Holland and with France, as well as questions regarding the rate of interest and the currency, occupied the attention of a crowd of writers in the second half of the century. Sir William Temple’s career had made him familiar with the economic condition both of Holland and of Ireland, and he wrote on both (1672 and 1673), praising highly the industrial methods of the Dutch. Sir Josiah Child, also, a great merchant who became chairman of the East India company, admired the commercial conditions of Holland, specially the low rate of interest so favourable to traders. This, he thought, was the true cause of the greatness of the Dutch; in like manner, cheap money would stimulate the enterprise of English merchants, and he urged that a low rate should be fixed by law. After the revolution, the economic policy of the whig House of Commons was criticised by several writers of whom the most important were Charles Davenant and Sir Dudley North. Davenant was the author of An Essay on the East India Trade (1697), besides other works, and North wrote Discourses upon Trade (1691). They were not free traders in the modern sense, but they argued against the restrictions and regulations adopted by the government for the encouragement of English trade.