states. It has been so, not only to 
Hamburgh, but to Venice and Amsterdam
A revenue of this kind has even by some 
people been thought not below the attention 
of so great an empire as that of Great Britain
Reckoning the ordinary dividend of the bank 
of England at five and a-half per cent., and 
its capital at ten millions seven hundred and 
eighty thousand pounds, the net annual profit
after paying the expense of management, 
must amount, it is said, to five hundred and 
ninety-two thousand nine hundred pounds
Government, it is pretended, could borrow 
this capital at three per cent. interest, and, by 
taking the management of the bank into its 
own hands, might make a clear profit of two 
hundred and sixty-nine thousand five hundred 
pounds a-year. The orderly, vigilant, and 
parsimonious administration of such aristocracies 
as those of Venice and Amsterdam, is extremely 
proper, it appears from experience, 
for the management of a mercantile project of 
this kind. But whether such a government 
as that of England, which, whatever may be 
its virtues, has never been famous for good 
economy; which, in time of peace, has generally 
conducted itself with the slothful and 
negligent profusion that is, perhaps, natural 
to monarchies; and, in time of war, has constantly 
acted with all the thoughtless extravagance 
that democracies are apt to fall into, 
could be safely trusted with the management 
of such a project, must at least be good deal 
more doubtful. 
The post-office is properly a mercantile project
The government advances the expense 
of establishing the different offices, and of buying 
or hiring the necessary horses or carriages
and is repaid, with a large profit, by the duties 
upon what is carried. It is, perhaps, the only 
mercantile project which has been successfully 
managed by, I believe, every sort of government
The capital to be advanced is not very 
considerable. There is no mystery in the business. 
The returns are not only certain, but 
Princes, however, have frequently engaged 
in many other mercantile projects, and have 
been willing, like private persons, to mend their 
fortunes, by becoming adventurers in the common 
branches of trade. They have scarce 
ever succeeded. The profusion with which 
the affairs of princes are always managed
renders it almost impossible that they should. 
The agents of a prince regard the wealth of 
their master as inexhaustible; are careless at 
what price they buy, are careless at what price 
they sell, are careless at what expense they 
transport his goods from one place to another. 
Those agents frequently live with the profusion 
of princes; and sometimes, too, in spite 
of that profusion, and by a proper method of 
making up their accounts, acquire the fortunes 
of princes. It was thus, as we are told by 
Machiavel, that the agents of Lorenzo of Medicis, 
not a prince of mean abilities, carried on 
his trade. The republic of Florence was 
several times obliged to pay the debt into 
which their extravagance had involved him. 
He found it convenient, accordingly to give up 
the business of merchant, the business to which 
his family had originally owed their fortune, 
and, in the latter part of his life, to employ 
both what remained of that fortune, and the 
revenue of the state, of which he had the disposal
in projects and expenses more suitable 
to his station. 
No two characters seem more inconsistent 
than those of trader and sovereign. If the 
trading spirit of the English East India company 
renders them very bad sovereigns, the 
spirit of sovereignty seems to have rendered 
them equally bad traders. While they were 
traders only, they managed their trade successfully
and were able to pay from their profits 
a moderate dividend to the proprietors of 
their stock. Since they became sovereigns
with a revenue which, it is said, was originally 
more than three millions sterling, they have 
been obliged to beg the ordinary assistance of 
government, in order to avoid immediate bankruptcy
In their former situation, their servants 
in India considered themselves as the 
clerks of merchants; in their present situation
those servants consider themselves as the ministers 
of sovereigns
A state may sometimes derive some part of 
its public revenue from the interest of money
as well as from the profits of stock. If it has 
amassed a treasure, it may lend a part of that 
treasure, either to foreign states, or to its own 
The canton of Berne derives a considerable 
revenue by lending a part of its treasure to 
foreign states, that is, by placing it in the 
public funds of the different indebted nations 
of Europe, chiefly in those of France and 
England. The security of this revenue must 
depend, first, upon the security of the funds 
in which it is placed, or upon the good faith 
of the government which has the management 
of them; and, secondly, upon the certainty or 
probability of the continuance of peace with 
the debtor nation. In the case of a war, the 
very first act of hostility on the part of the 
debtor nation might be the forfeiture of the 
funds of its creditor. This policy of lending 
money to foreign states is, so far as I know 
peculiar to the canton of Berne
The city of Hamburgh[51] has established
sort of public pawn-shop, which lends money 
to the subjects of the state, upon pledges, at 
six per cent. interest. This pawn-shop, or 
lombard, as it is called, affords a revenue, it 
is pretended, to the state, of a hundred and